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Bears may self-medicate against ticks by rubbing against trees

Brown bears often scratch their backs on trees, leaving behind chemical signals to other bears. Now, it seems the act also helps protect them from ticks


27 January 2023

Bear tree-rubbing

An anti-tick scratch?

Carpathian Brown Bear Project

Bears that rear up to scratch their backs against a tree trunk smear themselves with pungent resin, possibly keeping bloodsucking parasites at bay.

Brown bears (Ursus arctos) regularly scrape their necks, chests and backs against trees. The behaviour is often thought of as chemical communication with other bears, through the animals depositing their own odours or picking up a coating of aromatic resin. Bears will also gravitate towards smellier options for tree-rubbing, such as creosote-treated power poles.

But since many odoriferous plant oils and other substances have anti-fungal …

Source link Recent research has suggested that bears may be able to self-medicate against ticks by rubbing against trees. This behavior was first observed in wild bears in the Estonian island of Hiiumaa and could provide an interesting insight into animal behavior.

This study was conducted by researchers from the University of Veterinary Medicine in Vienna, who tracked the movements of 22 wild brown bears in Hiiumaa from 2013 to 2017. Through the use of camera traps, the researchers were able to observe the bears’ behavior and found that many of them rubbed against trees before lying down.

The researchers also collected ticks from the bears, both before and after the tree rubbing behavior. They found that the ticks on the bears decreased significantly after they had rubbed against the trees. This suggests that the bears may be using the tree as a natural way to remove the parasites.

The mechanism by which this works is still unknown, but it could be that the trees carry certain natural repellents which the bears can use to rid themselves of ticks. Further research is needed to confirm this.

The use of self-medication in animals is not entirely unheard of. In other species, such as chimpa

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