For bear hunters with hounds, a bear’s paw prints found along field edges or roadsides are their calling cards. For the experienced hunter, the size and characteristics of the track can tell plenty about the size and sex of the bear. 

Typically, boars are larger than sows. In North Carolina, adult females will range in weight between 90 and 250 pounds. Adult males will commonly weigh between 130 and 500 pounds. The largest bear ever killed in North Carolina — or anywhere else, for that matter — was an 883-pound boar killed in 1998 in Craven County.

Any very large track will likely belong to a boar. It is in the case of the tracks of bears between 100 and 250 pounds that hunters must rely on a reliable method to determine if the track was made by a male or female.

According to bear hunter Zach Lancaster, the size of the toes will indicate if the bear is a female or a male. 

“Females will have little toes, and male bears will have big, fat toes,” he said. “If the toes are as big around as your finger or bigger, it is a big, boar bear.”

Additionally, the presence of smaller tracks, obviously from cubs, around the larger, adult tracks is important. Because it is against state law to kill a sow with cubs, hunters can avoid turning out the dogs on groupings of tracks that indicate a sow with cubs.