This image shows a black bear turning to bird seed as a source of food. Bird seed can be a common attractant that encourages bears to enter civilized areas in search of food. Photo Credit: MrsOKeefe (iStock).

This image shows a black bear turning to bird seed as a source of food. Bird seed can be a common attractant that encourages bears to enter civilized areas in search of food. Photo Credit: MrsOKeefe (iStock).

Did you know that during the hyperphagia phase, a black bear can consume up to 20,000 calories a day as they prepare for winter hibernation? In the past, we've shown how much that might be in terms of fast food, but obviously bears aren't ordering their meals from a drive-thru window. They're turning to nuts, berries, grasses, and the occasional scavenged carcass or insect (and trash if you're leaving it out and accessible – don't do that).

Here's a look at what a black bear's natural diet might be during this hyperphagia phase of wild calorie consumption:

Note from the author: Bear with me, this is all napkin math based on the best information I could find. Surprisingly, there's not much info floating around about how many calories are in a single ant or foods not typically eaten by humans.

Pine Nuts (11 calories per 10 nuts) = 18,181 pine nuts

Crab Apple (at 1.2 ounces, 18 calories per crab apple) = 1,111 crab apples

Raspberries (1 calorie each) = 20,000 raspberries

Acorns (110 calories per ounce, ounce is 6 acorns) = 1,090 acorns

Grasshoppers (1,300 calories per pound, grasshopper weighs 300 mg, thus 1,512 per pound) = 23,255 grasshoppers

Ants (111 calories per 100 grams, 400 ants in a gram) = 72,000 ants

Squirrel (34 calories per ounce of raw squirrel, squirrel yields about 7 ounces meat) = 84 scavenged squirrels

Seeing the sheer number of tiny consumable items that must be collected by bears to hit their calorie count, it's easy to see why bears turn to human food and trash when they can to get higher calorie counts quicker. Because trash and human food isn't a part of a bear's natural diet and regular access can contribute to human-bear interactions where the bear is often killed, it's crucial to be 'bear smart' in Colorado's wild and urban areas, alike.

Colorado Parks and Wildlife released a long list of tips to help Coloradans bear-proof their living space. Here's the advice they shared:

  • Keep garbage in a well-secured location.
  • Only put out garbage on the morning of pickup.
  • Clean garbage cans regularly to keep them free of food odors: ammonia is effective.
  • Use a bear-resistant trash can or dumpster.
  • Don't leave pet food or stock feed outside.
  • Bird feeders are a major source of bear/human conflicts. Attract birds naturally with flowers and water baths. Do not hang bird feeders from April 15 to Nov. 15.
  • Do not attract other wildlife by feeding them, such as deer, turkeys or small mammals.
  • Don’t allow bears to become comfortable around your house. If you see one, yell at it, throw things at it, make noise to scare it off.
  • Secure compost piles. Bears are attracted to the scent of rotting food.
  • Clean the grill after each use.
  • Clean-up thoroughly after picnics in the yard or on the deck.
  • If you have fruit trees, don't allow the fruit to rot on the ground.
  • If you keep small livestock, keep animals in a fully covered enclosure. Construct electric fencing if possible. Don’t store livestock food outside, keep enclosures clean to minimize odors, hang rags soaked in ammonia and/or Pine-Sol around the enclosure.
  • If you have beehives, install electric fencing where allowed.
  • Talk to your neighbors and kids about being bear aware.
  • Keep garage doors closed.

Colorado Parks and Wildlife also released a list of tips for campers, car-owners, and travelers. Here's a look at that:

  • Lock your doors when you’re away from home and at night.
  • Keep the bottom floor windows of your house closed when you're not at home.
  • Do not keep food in your vehicle; roll up windows and lock the doors of your vehicles.
  • When car-camping, secure all food and coolers in a locked vehicle.
  • Keep a clean camp, whether you’re in a campground or in the backcountry.
  • When camping in the backcountry, hang food 100 feet or more from the campsite; don’t bring any food into your tent.
  • Cook food well away from your tent; wash dishes thoroughly.

Read more about bears in hyperphagia here.

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