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Treading on silent paws throughout their habitat, bears and lions enjoy life at the top of the food chain in their natural environment. While bears are omnivorous and eat large amounts of berries, nuts and insects, members of the lion family rely on catching live prey. Each species walks on a specialized foot to help it meet its specialized survival needs.
Both lions and bears use their paws to get food. The sharp, hooked claws of a lion to ensnare prey in a firm grip while the lion breaks the neck. The bear's claws are multipurpose tools with which he can deftly swipe a fish from a river, dig up a nest of yellow jackets or claw his way into a rotting log to look for ants or honey. Both species also use their claws for territorial markings.
Bears cannot retract their claws, so you will see definite imprints of the claws left in their tracks. A black bear's claws curve more than 1.5 inches away from his toes, and a grizzly bear's claws may exceed 4 inches. Like all cats, lions sharpen their claws by honing them on trees and retract them when not in use. African lion claws may exceed 3 inches in length on the front paws, and 2 inches on rear paws.
Bears have five toes on each of their four feet. The smallest toe is on the inner part of the foot, and the larger toe on the outer part of the foot. The toes fall along each other in a nearly straight line in the bear's tracks. Lions have four toes with a dew claw partway up each front leg. The toes align in an arc ahead of the ball of the foot, with the smallest toe found on the outside of the track.
Lions walk on the front part of their feet, leaving the imprint of toes and ball of the foot. The lion's footprint is longer than wide and leaves no imprints from the retracted claws. Bears walk on the soles of their feet, leaving heel marks in addition to the toes and ball prints in snow or mud. Their soft, wrinkly soles leave few imprints on other surfaces and enable them to move quietly along trails.
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