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Black Bear Signs & Hyperphagia

Black bears are omnivores as well as opportunists.  They will eat almost anything that they can find, but the majority of their diet consists of  grasses, roots, berries, nuts and insects (particularly the larvae).  In the fall, prior to going into hibernation, black bears enter a stage called “hyperphagia,” which literally means “excessive eating.”  They forage practically non-stop — up to 20 hours a day, building up fat reserves for hibernation, increasing their body weight by 35% in some cases.  Their daily food intake goes from 8,000 to 15-20,000 calories (that’s roughly equivalent to 70 McDonald’s cheeseburgers).  Signs of their foraging for grubs and beetles, such as the excavated base of the snag in the photograph, can be found with relative ease at this time of year, if you live where there are black bears.  If you do share their territory with them, be forewarned that they have excellent memories, especially for food sources.  Be sure not to leave food scraps or pet food outside (my compost bin was destroyed last year but I have no solution for that particular problem), and if you really don’t want any ursine visitors, it’s best to not start feeding birds until most black bears have entered hibernation – late December would be safe most years.

5 responses

  1. Kay Shumway

    How do you know about seventy cheeseburgers. Ugh, I’d rather eat larvae . Another great picture even though the bear had left!

    September 7, 2012 at 11:54 am

  2. Al Stoops

    In the past few weeks I’ve found a number of ground-nesting yellowjacket nests, most of them dug out by something (but with the wasps still present, apparently rebuilding). At least some of those were probably dug out by black bears (bear scat in the vicinity, appeared to be dug out by a large creature).
    Good info on bears at

    September 7, 2012 at 3:03 pm

    • Thanks, Al. Sounds like you did have a visit from a bear. Any yellowjackets in the scat?

      September 8, 2012 at 12:10 am

  3. Elizabeth

    I have found that periodically dumping ashes from the woodstove on top of my compost helps to keep the bears away. Since I began doing so I have not had my compost raided by bears (but had several times previous). You do have to watch out though not to let the compost get too alkaline from the wood ash, especially if your garden soil is already tending that way.

    September 7, 2012 at 3:04 pm

    • Thank you so much, Elizabeth. I will definitely try this!

      September 8, 2012 at 12:11 am

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