Bear Poop Yields 1200 Seedlings at RMNP

Wednesday, May 17th, 2017

Janet Oravetz, KUSA

Rocky Mountain National Park
Hundreds of seedlings sprouted from bear scat planted in the greenhouse at Rocky Mountain National Park.

ROCKY MOUNTAIN NATIONAL PARK - Workers at Rocky Mountain National Park planted a bunch of bear scat as part of an experiment. They ended up with about 1,200 seedlings that will eventually be planted inside the park.

A spokesperson for the park says a member of the vegetation restoration crew collected the scat last fall. Another park employee told the resources stewardship staff that it had been collected inside the park.

No one had the park had done it before, but they decided to plant the scat in the park's greenhouse to see what would happen.

Kyle Patterson with Rocky Mountain National Park, says bear scat is often mostly seeds because berries are a large part of their diet in the late summer and fall.

They did not pick out the seeds, but simply mixed the scat with soil in germination trays. They had much greater germination success than expected with over 1,200 seedlings from a single scat collection of primarily Chokecherry and Oregon Grape. (sometimes Creeping Barberry)

Patterson says it can be difficult to germinate these tree species because the Chokecherry, for example, has an extremely hard, thick seed coat that needs to be broken down in order to  allow the seed to germinate.

She says passing through the bear's digestive system helps break down that seed coat and allowed for their success.

The seedlings will be planted in the park this summer in places that are appropriate for those particular species. They will also plant some in areas near where the scat was collected.

Many of the Oregon Grape seedlings will be planted to rehabilitate the ground disturbance from the replacement of the park's main waterline project in 2016.