Bare berry bushes for bears

Bears depend on berries to build up their winter reserves.

  • Aug. 28, 2012 9:00 a.m.
Berry abundance can bring bears closer to home.

Berry abundance can bring bears closer to home.

Sadie Parr

Golden Bear Aware Community Co-ordinator

This time of year, bears are beginning to put some weight back on now that the berry crops are ripe!  Bears are searching for high caloric foods, requiring up to 20,000 calories each day in late summer and fall.

An active human teenager only needs 3,000 calories compared to a more sedentary adult, who needs about 2,000 calories each day.  A golden retriever requires about 1,400 calories each day.

Berries are a vital source of nutrition for bears.  Bears increase their rate of feeding as natural foods become more available to them and the quality of food increases.   Bears are not fussy but will choose the highest calorie foods in order to maximize their reward.  This time of year, bears are aiming to increase their body weight to fuel their long winter sleep.

Bears depend on berries to build up their winter reserves.  If they have not gained enough weight in the late summer and fall months, their chances of surviving winter and producing young are greatly reduced.

Bears will lose up to 30 per cent of their body weight during hibernation, and lactating females will often continue to lose weight in early spring when food is scarce, sometimes for an entire year.  When the summer berry season arrives, bears finally begin putting weight back on.

Black bears will spend hours in the same berry patch, or lying on their bellies delicately plucking berries with their flexible lips.

The lips of a bear are similar to the prehensile tail of a monkey, allowing them to grasp berries one at a time.

Bears are often intent of feeding when they have discovered an abundance of berries and are less likely to be paying attention to much else, therefore stay alert, make noise, and carry bear spray.

Unpublished records from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources show a correlation between failures of berry crops and marked increases in bear damage to farm crops, beehives, and livestock, with a corresponding increase in the number of bears killed for such activities.  Competition for food increases among bears as the supply becomes limited.

There are a variety of methods used by people to reduce human-bear conflicts regarding berry abundance.

One option is to monitor the production of berries in local areas, making it easier to predict the occurrence of bears taking greater risks in human settlements as they attempt to fulfil their biological drive for calories.

Bear Aware has developed a public survey that can help monitor and predict such trends.  To participate, contact to request a copy of the 2012 Berry Survey.

Call 1-877-952-7277 to report a bear sighting in a residential area, property damage or wildlife conflict.  To learn more about managing attractants, visit or contact Sadie Parr : email, phone 250-290-1222.