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Native Californian, biologist, wildlife conservation consultant, retired Smithsonian scientist, father of two daughters, grandfather of 4 small primates. INTJ. Believes nature is infinitely more interesting than shopping malls. Born 100 years too late.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Bear hair and a Texas toothpick

A pile of hair is not a regular find on a country road.

Around here beverage bottles and aluminum cans are the usual findings, then food wrappers and gun cartridges, and finally the odd bit of clothing, discarded, lost from a pickup truck, or abandoned due to temporary memory impairment.

They all have their stories, but most are not particularly interesting.

But a pile of hair like this is a different matter.

The obsessive dog groomers who walk their pets on the flume trail never leave hair balls like this.

It was unmistakably bear hair, and Fred sniffed it with more than casual interest.

But why was it there?

Did a hungry coyote chew a patch of mouldering bear hide there on the road?  

Could the carcass be nearby?

I climbed down the bank into the chaparral, but failed to interest Fred in taking up a trail.

During the past two days he energetically examined two bear skids on steep road cuts in the canyon.

Now he was more interested in going home to be fed, and all I found were crumpled Bud Light cans.

I snapped a picture of the hair pile and made a parting poke with a stick.

That's when I found the Texas toothpick, one of the few unpaired bones found in the body of many male mammals.

Yep, it was a baculum, also known as the os penis or penis bone, a rare and auspicious find.

I took it and headed home.


Trailblazer said...


Heck of a find!!

Funny that it was the only part of the critter sitting on the side of the road in a pile of hair....and no other remains nearby.

Camera Trap Codger said...

Indeed, that's what is so strange about it.

owlman said...

Very interesting find and wondering what species does the baculum belong?

Camera Trap Codger said...

It's a bear baculum, Terry. Maybe Rich can shed some light on this.

Anonymous said...

That is one beautiful bone! I'll give you two sea lion bacula for it. I'm really embarrassed to say this, but I never knew that bears shed their os penis when they molt. I guess Joe Hall was embarrassed to mention this in his mammalogy lectures with girly girls like Ginger Finch in class. I wanna hear your musings about why that bear stopped to molt on the road. Was it an exhibitionist?

Do you know the poem Ode to an Oosik?


Sydney said...

The Texas toothpick looks a lot like the residue that is left from my cats dinner on a gopher or mole. Could that be? Sometimes she leaves a kidney, but sometimes I see this funny bone?

Camera Trap Codger said...

No, this is a single 5-inch long bone. The bone you see is probably a leg bone, much smaller, while the baculum of a gopher is very small.

lauradora said...

This reminds me of something I heard the other day about how if bears are startled well mating and the female takes off she could potentially rip the males penis off. This sounds like baloney to me, also the guy who told me tends to believe anything he is told, still I'm curious to know if it's true have you ever heard this.

Camera Trap Codger said...

Lauradora, he's talking about the copulatory tie of dogs, which locks the pair together at the end of mating. Though it occurs in other species I haven't heard of it in bears, and during my days as a zoo curator I didn't see it in mating bears.

Sydney said...

Sorry Chris, I didn't make myself clear. The gopher part that the cat leaves is only 3/4 to 1 inch long, but seems to be shaped and consistent with your picture.

randomtruth said...

Freaky coincidence, Codge - I just found a full dead bear down in the Tehachapis. I brought back the skull, but didn't think to look for this, um, bone.

Camera Trap Codger said...

Cool find, RT.

And Cousin Sydney, get a picture next time around -- I think a gopher baculum is not that long -- you might have seen one of the lower leg bones.