Todd Crabtree, a naturalist extraordinaire and botanist at Tennessee’s Division of Natural Areas, sent me the following photos as a follow-up to my discussion of bear corn. Todd was leading a hike above Abrams Creek during the annual Smoky Mountain Wildflower Pilgrimage and saw this bear high in an ash tree. The photos are taken from a ridge looking down into the tree tops. The bear appeared to be nipping at the ash flowers.
Photo Credits: Todd Crabtree, 2013.
Although this is a startling sight (how do the branches hold that weight?) studies of black bears report this kind of behavior across the species’ range. In some places, the bears’ hunger for tree flowers is a significant source of damage for many trees. In southeast Alaska, for example, bears like to climb cottonwoods, staying close to the trunk then breaking off branches to munch on catkins.