Fall is critical month for bears

This is the third article in our Bear Smart series for residents of the Clearwater Valley. We invite everyone interested to join our community-wide efforts to reduce bear-human conflicts. Our first article summarized the mission and efforts of the Clearwater Bear Smart Working Group and our second article explained the Bear Smart community concept and the history of the Bear Smart movement.

Let’s focus now on how September and October are critical months for bears. During fall bears need to maximize their body condition (fat) in order to survive hibernation. This period of extreme eating is called hyperphagia when bears may eat in excess of 20,000 calories a day.

People and Carnivores website can help us understand more about bear behavior. “Because bears are so focused on food this time of year, they are more likely to take risks--like coming into a backyard to find food. Letting a bear access these higher-calorie items won’t do it any favors. Bears that get into these items can learn that human-inhabited areas provide easy meals, meaning they’re more likely to stick around. They can get protective of food sources, leading to conflicts between bears and humans, with bears sometimes getting euthanized as a result.”

Did you know how much a bear can eat? “In the fall, omnivorous black bears eat a lot of berries. 1 lb of huckleberries = 166 calories, 1 lb of blackberries = 195 calories, and 1 lb of chokecherries = 249 calories. Meanwhile, if a bear wanders through a backyard, it might come across a 1 lb of birdseed = 2,585 calories, sugar from a hummingbird feeder = 3,200 calories, a bowl of dog food = 1,200 calories, a cooler left on a porch or in a vehicle with picnic feed = 6,536 calories, a chicken coop = 1,500 calories per chicken (not to mention the chicken feed), a beehive = 68,672 calories.” (Source: People and Carnivores)

Let’s work together to keep our community safe and help bears this fall by encouraging them to pass through our drainage without getting human-related food rewards. Have questions about what you can do? Homeowners can remove bear attractants around their homes, store garbage in a bear-resistant container, take down bird feeders, store pet food inside, and install an electric fence around chicken coops, beehives, and fruit trees.

If you need assistance with bear-related concerns, have input for the Bear Smart working group, or would like to get involved please reach out via the Clearwater Wildlife Facebook page, email teaguemt@gmail.com. or leave a note addressed to the CV Bear Smart working group at the Seeley Lake Community Foundation building.


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