[ Probably what your seeing on the Aspen is them feeding on the cambium layer.This inner layer is very juicy and they will peel back the bark to get at it.Even though this feeding behavior isn't common , it does happen.
Territorial marking usually happens in the late spring,early summer when they're approaching mating season. But that isn't to say that they may be re-marking. The damage you've indicated though,is more extensive than "mark" trees and I'd say they're seeking this cambium layer associated with these soft bark trees.
Since these animals are opportunists,anything edible is considered food. If there are grasses in the area,this is a favorite,nutritious food item of theirs. They love insects and the associated larva. They'll also consume carrion ,rodents and anything else that will provide energy.
I would assume that these animals are in the vicinity all year. In the fall though,studies have shown that these animals will travel considerable distances (100 miles + ) seeking out food or going to a known food source. Here in Wisc. I've had bears travel long distances in the fall to an available food supply ( may be an acorn ridge or a cornfield), "pig out" (may take a month or so), then go back home.
Hope this helps you somewhat. Good Luck in your pursuits. Mike QUOTE]Originally posted by Daryl:
Until a few yesrs ago, I had always hunted bears in SE Arizona and the country where I hunted was mostly covered in oak brush, mesquite, prickly pear and manzanita. Scouting involved finding food sources like prickly pear and manzanita berries and then looking for tracks and scat. Sounds simple, huh?

Then a couple of years ago I started hunting sometimes up in the mogollon rim country of Arizona. This country is covered with pine trees, aspens, and sometimes cedars. I don't find any berries because the birds usually get them very quickly and tracks are impossible to find because the ground is covered with pine needles. I have found some scat, but not much.

The kind of sign that I do find is scratches on trees. It is usually an aspen tree and the bark will be torn off of one side of the tree, and it will often be the side of the tree toward an opening or meadow. It looks like the bear reaches as high as it can and then scatches the tree all the way to the ground. Sometimes there will be several of these scratches along the edge of a meadow. Often there is an old sctatch on one side of the tree and a fresh scratch will appear on the other side of the tree sometime in September.

Can anybody tell me what the significance of these scratches is? Are they a territorial marker?

Why do the scratches always seem to appear in September? I am wondering if this is just the time of year that the bears are in the area or if they will be there year round?

What kind of food sources would you look for in this type of country other than prey animals?

Sorry for so many questions, but any advice is really apprieciated.