The Perfect Gift Book for Dads and Grads. Give them a summer of discovery and wonder.
Mini book

Want Some Berries? Plant Some Bear Poop

One mound from Rocky Mountain National Park has yielded 1,200 seedlings.

The Park greenhouse planted bear poop, and look what has sprung to life! There have been ~1200 seedlings of both…

Posted by Rocky Mountain National Park on Thursday, April 27, 2017

One hungry black bear in Rocky Mountain National Park snacked on hundreds of fruits in short succession last summer.

How do we know? Because one mound of his poop has sprouted about 1200 chokecherry and Oregon grape seedlings in the park’s greenhouse.

As Cool Green Science reported last week, the scat was collected by Trish Stockton, a biological science technician at the park. Stockton dried the scat, mixed it with soil, and waited. Although this was her third year planting poop, and the last two years didn’t go great, she was optimistic about this particular pile: “To find [one] with that many seeds in it, I knew I was on my way,” she told CGS.

Some seedy bear scat samples.
Some seedy bear scat samples. Florida Fish and Wildlife/CC BY-ND 2.0

Her good feeling was borne out. Not only did the scat give rise to thousands of sprouts, each is “twice as tall as any human-grown sprout,” writes CGS. This is likely because going through the interior environment of a bear is good for certain seeds, including Oregon grapes and chokecherry. (Human attempts to do the same using acid baths have been far less successful, in the park’s experience.)

When they’re big enough, the resulting plants will be relocated throughout the park. And once they’re mature enough to sprout berries, maybe they’ll meet another bear.

Every day, we track down a fleeting wonder—something amazing that’s only happening right now. Have a tip for us? Tell us about it! Send your temporary miracles to [email protected].