Went for a hike recently and saw some very large tracks on the trail, almost as big as my hand. Probably the biggest I’ve ever seen. They were odd in that they looked both like bear and big cat tracks. The big cats native to California are mountain lions and bobcats. Cats have retractable claws which don’t usually show in prints, whereas bears don’t; thus bear claws tend to leave a mark. Yet these tracks, and there were plenty of them, showed no claws. On the other hand, they had five toes like a bear’s, not the four that a cat would leave. Plus, they were bigger than any mountain lion track I’ve seen. So I have to assume that they were from a bear. I’m not a tracker, so I could be wrong, but I looked at them pretty closely. I’m assuming that the animal weighed in at 400 + pounds, much heavier than a typical mountain lion. As luck would have it, I didn’t have a camera with me to post photos of the tracks here. I went back yesterday morning with a camera, but by then the tracks had been obliterated by people on horses.
Along with the tracks there was scat. Lots of it, and it was dark, indicating that that the beast had eaten a big animal meal recently. Over the years I’ve seen lots of bear scat, and it’s almost always lighter on color and contains lots of berries, especially manzanita berry seeds. Not this though. Oddly, most of the scat was gone on my second trip too, but I did get a shot of one specimen. I peered into a couple of caves to see if perhaps the bear/lion was in one of them, but they were empty.