Ask a Bear: Why Do You Eat Dirt?

You've got questions. Our staff bruin has answers.

Q: I saw a grizzly eating dirt in Yellowstone last year. Was he just really hungry? - Kristen Skardasis, via email 

A: Oh, now this is a little "embearassing". But before I get into it, you should know I’m not the only critter out there that does this. Deer, rabbits, and mountain goats all take a mouthful of soil every now and then. For them, dirt, especially clay, serves to absorb toxins and help soothe upset stomachs, and mineral soils are pretty much the animal kingdom's equivalent of a multivitamin. As for me, I spend a lot of time digging up roots and bugs, and I get plenty of dirt in my mouth by accident, so that might be what you saw. Other times, well, I just get these cravings. Folks who study my kind speculate it’s because I eat too much fish during salmon season and dirt seems to help prevent the runs. See? Told you it was embarrassing.