I would like to say that I understand what is happening here, but I simply don’t. I am not a bear – not on my good days anyway.
But what we seem to see in this little sequence is the incorporation of two, possibly distinct, behaviors. Bears, similar to domestic dogs and wolves just love to roll around in foul smelling (to us anyway) odors. I am sure those of you who are dog owners will have experienced this. You are out for a pleasant stroll with your canine freind, then he/she suddenly decides to roll in the half rotten carcass of a squirrel. Well bears like to do just the same.
From my searches of internet sources it seems there are many theories as to why this is but no definitive answer. It’s still not fully understood what the purpose of the additional odor is.
We know from documented studies that bears may rub against trees to leave their own scent as markers for territorial/communication means, we had covered this in an earlier post
We also know that bears have an incredible sense of smell because a) the inside of their nose cavity has hundreds of times more surface area and receptors than a human’s and correspondingly b) the area of their brain that manages the sense of smell is at least 5 times larger than in a human brain, even though a bear’s brain is approximately a third of the size. Therefore smell is a very important sense to a bear and he/she may have the ability to use smell in ways we cannot fully understand.
What we seem to have in the following video are these two behaviors simultaneously, so they may be linked in some way.
In the scene the bear takes a handful of leaves, which have a trace of odor from a previous pugnacious scent agent used by us in the same spot, and begins to rub those leaves into his body/head with vigour. Then, as to the second behaviour, he then starts a tree rub which would put his scent and his newly found leaf borne odor onto the tree. We presume. If the tree rub is in regard to territorial communication then the interesting question would be why with the additional odour? Or maybe the tree is being used to spread the odor more effectively on the bear's body?
Whatever the reason for this - he seems to enjoy it greatly. What better reason to do something?