Black bears in Colorado are entering hyperphagia and will spend up to 20 hours a day trying to search out and eat as much food as possible as they fatten for winter. In the coming months, people must be vigilant and proactive in removing all attractants from outside homes and campsites to prevent conflicts and encounters with black bears.
Twenty chicken sandwiches, ten large orders of french fries, ten soft drinks, and ten milkshakes is the approximate fast food order needed to total 20,000 calories. That is how many calories hyperphagia, an increase in feeding activity driven by biological need, causes a hungry black bear to consume daily as they pack on the pounds to build up their fat reserves to survive the winter.
Over half of the bear incident reports in 2022 occurred in August, September, and October. As bears begin this annual quest to prepare for winter and hunt for food, Coloradans may see more bear activity in urban areas.
Reported conflicts with bears most commonly result from attractants such as trash, bird seed, pet food, and barbecue grills. When bears become too comfortable around people, they can destroy property or even become a threat to human safety.
“Research shows that bears prefer natural sources of food. But they will seek out sources of human-provided food if it’s available, which can become dangerous to humans,” said CPW Northwest Region Senior Wildlife Biologist Brad Banulis. “Preventing bears from relying on human food sources takes a community effort, and it’s important that we all take proactive steps to limit human food sources in order to avoid any possible conflicts with bears and bear-proof our homes.”
A black bear’s natural diet consists of berries, fruits, nuts, plants, and grasses that grow naturally in the foothills and forests. When natural food sources become scarce, a bear’s drive to search for food can overcome its fear of humans.
Significant portions of Colorado experienced abundant rainfall throughout the spring and summer, leading to ample natural food production for bears in acorns, berries, and other forage. Despite this, bears will still be more active in the coming months as they search for much-needed calories to survive the winter, pushing some to venture toward homes and campsites.
Become Bear Aware
Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) offers a reminder that by taking some simple precautions, you can avoid human/wildlife conflicts and help keep bears wild.
Bear-proofing your home:
- Keep garbage in a well-secured location. Only put out trash on the morning of pickup.
- Clean garbage cans regularly to keep them from food odors: ammonia is effective.
- Keep garage doors closed. Do not leave pet food or stock feed outside.
- Use a bear-resistant trash can or dumpster.
- Bird feeders are a significant source of bear/human conflicts. Attract birds naturally with flowers and water baths. Do not hang bird feeders from April 15 to Nov. 15.
- Don’t allow bears to become comfortable around your house. If you see one, haze it by yelling, throwing things at it, and making loud noises to scare it off.
- Secure compost piles. Bears are attracted to the scent of rotting food.
- Clean the grill after each use, and clean up thoroughly after cookouts.
- If you have fruit trees, don’t allow the fruit to rot on the ground.
- Talk to your neighbors and kids about being bear-aware.
Cars, traveling, and campsites:
- 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 cars.
- When car-camping, secure all food and coolers in a locked car.
- Keep a clean camp, whether in a campground or the backcountry.
- When camping in the bush, 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.
Protecting your chickens, bees, and livestock:
- Keep chickens, bees, and livestock in a fully covered enclosure, especially at night.
- Construct electric fencing when possible.
- Don’t store livestock feed outside.
- Keep enclosures clean to minimize animal odors.
- As a scent deterrent, hang rags soaked in ammonia and/or Pine-Sol around the enclosure.
CPW asks all residents and visitors to help save Colorado’s bears by being actively bear-aware throughout the late summer and fall seasons. Bear conflicts and, unfortunately, bear euthanization are most often traced back to human behavior. Our responsibility is to help minimize risks to humans and bears by being mindful of our impacts.