As Marinehawk said....
Claw tip to claw tip = Width
Tip of nose to tip of tail = Length
Add WIDTH and LENGTH together, then divide by 2.
That will be the "squared size" of your bear.
It is an inexact, conversational measurement. It ain't science.
A pelt with fat and flesh all over it will never spread out to as big as one completely and properly skinned and fleshed.
Take your measurements prior to the first application of salt! That salt, applied to "set the hair", will shrink up a pelt within hours.
Also, we hunters always hear of stretching a bear pelt to make it bigger. Well, you can only stretch so far. Pull on the paws and the nose to tail length shortens up. Pull on the nose and tail and the claw to claw measurement shortens up. So just toss out your skinned pelt on a blue tarp. Spread it out without stretching it like its being tortured. Take your measurements. And be done.
Your processed bear pelt will never get back to it's original large size until your taxidermist wets and properly stretches it back to size. Then, it is my observation, that you still lose an inch or two of the original size on the final mount or rug.
Relating back to the original thread question....
...MarineHawk recently shot that western Alaska brown bear that squared 9 foot, 2 inches.
Its front paws measured 8 1/8 inched straight across the front pads.
For both black bears and brown bears, I measure the track. Then add about one (1) to estimate the size of the bear. So a 7 inch front track would be about an 8 foot (squared) bear and a 8 inch front track would be about a 9 foot (squared) bear. This based on the actual dead-on-the-ground measurements of only about 20 black bears and only about 30 brown bears. Many members of this forum have measured many more bears and their experiences may differ to some extent.
Remember, this is a conversational measurement. It ain't science.
After handling approx. 20 live black bears over the past year, I am beginning to doubt the validity of any formula for estimating the size of bears. I'm starting to think that the +1 theory may be a hunting myth. The bears I've handled have been all sizes, both male and female, from small 2 year olds to large, mature boars. I've measured the front paws out of curiosity and it's uncanny how they have all been about 4.5" +/- a half inch or so. It's a small sample size for sure and maybe it's a SE thing.
When you can stick your size 12 in the rear track and still have some track left over,( not counting the claws) its time to be aware.
Originally Posted by Fullcurl
The OP was asking about track size, not pad size I think. Like when you walk barefoot, your foot mushes out. You put 300#'s of a nice black bear on the 4.5" pad, it will spread quite a bit I imagine. My spring bear was 4.5" across the front pad. It was 6'6" nose to tail unfleshed. Squared 6'10" also unfleshed, basically an honest 7' boar squared onced fleshed. His tracks in the snow were as wide as my thumb to pinky spread apart as far as I could. Softer surfaces, mud, snow and sand will exagerate the size of course. I still think hard pack track plus 1" is about the best way.
Best way I have heard to judge is what Marc Taylor told me a few years ago. "Best way to judge size is when they are dead on the ground"! Perfect way for us meat hunters.