What do black bears eat? You title it, and a black bear will in all probability eat it. Usually talking, black bears eat vegetation, berries, nuts, bugs, fish, and meat. Bears are omnivores whose food regimen varies primarily based on the area the place they stay, however much more on the altering seasons. They’re additionally opportunistic, which suggests they received’t flip down a simple meal. That’s why black bears are sometimes caught dumpster diving and raiding yard chook feeders.

Nonetheless, black bears have loads of most popular meals, and figuring out what a bear likes to eat throughout a particular time of 12 months is vital for scouting, focusing on them over pure meals sources, or operating bear baits. Whereas this text doesn’t include an exhaustive listing of each single leaf, grass, berry, and bug a black bear will eat, it would present sufficient concrete examples which might be related to the bears in your space. If you need extra details about the crops and bugs native to your state, your finest guess is to seek out your state wildlife company’s data on black bears.

Desk of Contents

A black bear catches a salmon.
Black bears, particularly these in coastal areas or close to productive fisheries, generally hunt fish like salmon and trout.

Click on on certainly one of these subjects beneath to leap round to detailed lists of what black bears eat, or simply learn straight via the story.

    What Black Bears Eat Relies on the Season
    Black Bears Eat Largely Crops…
    Grasses, Leaves, and Crops
    Mushy Mast
    Exhausting Mast
    Crops and Meals Plots
    …However They Do Eat Bugs, Fish, and Meat
    Insect Meals Sources
    Different Animal Meals Sources
    The Greatest Black Bear Bait
    Widespread Black Bear Baits
    Bear Attractants in Populated Human Areas

What Black Bears Eat Relies on the Season

To grasp what a black bear is consuming, you should first think about the time of 12 months.

If it’s the useless of winter, the reply to the query “What do black bears eat?” might be nothing in any respect. Though most individuals imagine bear hibernation is a months-long stretch the place bears go to sleep in autumn and don’t stir till spring, that’s a misnomer. Bears should not true hibernators. As an alternative, they search dens within the winter when meals turns into scarce. In truth, so long as a bear isn’t experiencing an vitality deficit—when foraging requires extra vitality than the forage itself offers—bears don’t have to den. (Sometimes these bears are both boars or sows with yearling cubs; pregnant sows give delivery within the den overwinter.)

Black bears eat berries of all kinds throughout the summer.
Black bears spend a lot of the summer time following the berry crop. Jason / Adobe Inventory

As a normal rule, black bears don’t eat throughout a den cycle. Cubs will nurse and drink milk (and sows will really eat the droppings of their new child cubs), however that’s about it. Bears preserve their vitality by sleeping typically, shifting little, and subsisting on the fats shops they constructed up final fall. As quickly as a bear leaves the den within the spring, although, meals turns into its main focus.

“Bears might be rising from dens wherever from mid February to mid- or late-April relying on their [cub] standing and intercourse, and so they instantly start to get better the load they misplaced in the course of the den cycle,” says Myron Means, the massive carnivore program coordinator for the Arkansas Fish and Sport Fee. “They’re consuming quite a lot of grasses and doing quite a lot of rock-rolling [to find] bugs. That’s the majority of their food regimen till the berry crop will get ripe.”

Black bears, says Means, tend to seek out one meals supply and eat it till it’s exhausted.

“Bears are type of distinctive,” says Means. “There are totally different crops that fruit at totally different occasions in the summertime, and bears simply transition from one to the following and the following, [eating] virtually completely on that meals supply. Blackberries are normally [ripe] first, then bears transition to wild cherries, then sassafras and pokeberries in a while in the summertime, then elderberries.”

Black bears love to eat ripe wild raspberries.
Blackberries—a most popular meals supply for black bears—are one of many first wild berries to ripen in the summertime. USFWS

After the mating season (normally Might via July) and as fall approaches, black bears enter what’s known as hyperphagia, says Means, the place bears simply gorge themselves on no matter they’ll eat to construct their fats shops forward of the following den cycle. So simply how a lot do black bears eat?

“After they’re going via this hyperphagic section, they could eat 20,000 energy a day,” says Means, “which is quite a lot of meals once you’re speaking about largely comfortable mast like berries.”

Right here’s one other method to consider that. Black bears can eat as much as 45 kilos of meals a day when forage is considerable, placing on 5 kilos of weight in preparation for winter, in line with Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks. 

Black Bears Largely Eat Crops…

Devil's walking stick berries.
Berries from the satan’s membership, or satan’s strolling stick, are simply one of many comfortable masts black bears are recognized to favor. NPS

Though black bears are omnivores, crops make up the majority of their pure food regimen. Based mostly on the analysis experiences he’s studied, Means says a black bear’s food regimen is normally 80 to 90 % herbaceous materials—that’s grasses, leaves, berries, nuts, and agricultural crops. One research of Texas black bears, for instance, discovered that bears diets had been 77 % plant-based within the spring, and 86 % plant-based in the summertime.

Within the early spring, black bears goal tender inexperienced shoots and weeds like dandelions earlier than switching to ripe berries all through the summer time, then gorging themselves on laborious mast like nuts within the fall. Particular examples of pure plant forage embody:

Grasses, Leaves, and Different Crops

  • Agave
  • Aspen leaves
  • Beech leaves
  • Clover
  • Dandelions
  • Desert spoon sotol
  • Dogwood
  • Jewelweed
  • Pokeweed Leaves
  • Roots and tubers
  • Rye grass
  • Sassafras
  • Skunk cabbage
  • Wild lettuce
  • Yucca

Mushy Mast Meals Sources

  • Apples
  • Autumn olive berries
  • Blackberries
  • Black gum berries
  • Blueberries
  • Buckthorn berries
  • Chokeberry
  • Satan’s strolling stick fruit
  • Elderberries
  • Huckleberries
  • Mulberries
  • Pears
  • Persimmons
  • Pokeberries
  • Raspberries
  • Serviceberries
  • Wild cherries
  • Wild grapes

Exhausting Mast Meals Sources

  • Acorns (particularly white oak acorns)
  • Beechnuts
  • Black Walnuts
  • Chestnuts
  • Hazelnuts
  • Hickory nuts
  • Pine nuts

One motive black bears need to eat a lot plant matter to realize weight is as a result of they’ve a brief intestine, says Means. Their intestine “was actually engineered to be a carnivore’s intestine, however they developed to eat a extra herbaceous food regimen.”

Black bears have quick guts that may’t absolutely take up all of the vitamins from plant matter—whether or not or not it’s berries or grasses. That is one motive it’s normally really easy to determine bear scat: It’s normally stuffed with entire berries and seeds. Analyzing bear scat can also be an effective way to find out what meals a bear has been focusing on.

Bear scat is full of whole berries.
Bear scat is normally stuffed with entire undigested berries and seeds, and is an effective indicator of what a bear has been feeding on. On this case, the bear that left this scat was gorging on high-bush cranberries. mscornelius / Adobe Inventory

A Be aware on Crops and Meals Plots for Bears

Black bears do goal crops like corn and winter wheat, says Means, though corn typically isn’t nice for black bears as a result of their digestive programs can’t course of it very effectively. 

“I’ve seen the place bears will stroll via meals plots simply stripping the wheat heads and consuming nothing however these,” says Means. “Then they’ll go away scat round these meals plots and the scat is nothing however a log of wheat heads.”

Black bears favor clover amongst many different crops, and it’s a sensible choice if you happen to’re involved in planting meals plots for a wide range of wildlife, since deer and turkeys additionally use clover plots.

…Black Bears Do Eat Bugs, Fish, and Meat

Of the ten to twenty % of a black bear’s food regimen that doesn’t come from plant matter, says Means, most of that animal protein comes from bugs. Listed here are some frequent bugs that black bears are recognized to eat:

Insect Meals Sources

  • Ants
  • Beetles
  • Caterpillars
  • Grubs
  • Honey bees
  • Hornets
  • Termites
  • Strolling sticks
  • Yellowjackets

One frequent false impression about bears is that they love honey, however that’s not what they’re actually after after they raid a hive.

​​“Bears are extra within the larvae,” says Means. “The honey is a superb reward, however the larva has all of the protein. That’s why most bears will raid beehives when the hives are going good and robust, and so they’ve received full frames of larvae in June and July.”

As for the true quantity of meat that makes up a bear’s food regimen, Means estimates that black bears—in Arkansas, at the very least—rely little or no on mammal protein.

“The true meat in a bear’s annual food regimen accounts for possibly one %,” says Means. “It’s simply not a lot in any respect.”

When a black bear does eat an animal, it’s normally the results of alternative slightly than as a result of that bear particularly hunted a specific critter.

A young black bear eats the guts of a deer.
A younger black bear feeds on a useless deer that was probably hit by a automobile. Richard / Adobe Inventory

“Bears will eat carrion. I’ve seen sows really pull roadkill deer off the highway and eat off it for a pair days,” says Technique of the again bears he’s noticed in Arkansas. “After all, they’d pounce on a deer fawn if that they had a possibility. However bears don’t actually actively hunt fawns. They’re so consumed with simply getting no matter meals they’ll. It’s quite a lot of effort for a bit of reward for a fawn and so they’d slightly simply stomach up right into a blackberry patch when the berries are ripe slightly than attempt to hunt a fawn down.”

Nonetheless, black bear predation charges of mammals like deer fawns and elk calves differ regionally. In a single Pennsylvania research of 165 GPS-collared whitetail fawns, researchers discovered that black bears had been chargeable for killing 23 fawns, or 14 %—greater than some other predator within the research. (Coyotes killed 14 fawns, bobcats killed seven, and a handful of different predators couldn’t be recognized.) 

Black bears are often the top predator of whitetail fawns.
Black bears will eat deer fawns after they get the prospect. Ben / Adobe Inventory

In a single research of moose predation in Southeast Alaska, researchers discovered that black bears averaged one moose calf kill each 40 days, and no black bears had been documented killing grownup moose. Predation charges, researchers famous, had been “extremely variable amongst particular person bears.” One other research of elk calf survival in New Mexico decided that “the first trigger for summer time [elk] calf mortality throughout all years was black bear predation.” Larger hunter harvest of black bears was linked to raised elk calf survival charges, with researchers noting that for “each further bear harvested in spring, radio-collar tagged elk calves had been 2.4 % extra prone to survive the summer time.”

Whereas these research do point out that black bears are sometimes the highest predator of new child ungulates, they don’t inform us what % of a bear’s food regimen consists of fawns or calves. Nonetheless, it’s crystal clear that black bears do certainly eat meat.

Different Animal Meals Sources

  • Chook eggs
  • Birds (grouse, geese, and so on.)
  • Carrion and roadkill
  • Crawdads
  • Deer fawns
  • Elk calves
  • Fish (trout, salmon, and so on.)
  • Hogs
  • Moose calves
  • Mussels
  • Rodents (mice, rabbits, and so on.)

The Greatest Black Bear Bait

Should you ask 10 black bear hunters what their favourite bait for black bears is, you’ll in all probability get 10 totally different solutions. I as soon as hunted with an clothing store in Saskatchewan who froze entire beaver carcasses, then sawed them in half and tossed the meat in bait barrels with oats, cooking oil, and the occasional hog quarter. The bears up there appreciated that simply effective.

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However if you happen to don’t have entry to beaver carcasses or a crew of guides to freshen such heavy, messy bait, or if baiting with meat is against the law in your space, there are simpler choices. As a result of black bears eat absolutely anything, Means chooses black bear bait with affordability and comfort in thoughts.

A black bear stands beside a bait barrel.
A bear inspects a bait barrel filled with thawing pork and beaver meat. Natalie Krebs

“I purchase the most affordable bait I can get in massive portions, so I purchase pet food in bulk,” says Means, who runs six barrels for six hunters (together with himself) on his looking lease. “I’ll feed over a ton of pet food in a season. You need one thing that has a fairly good protein content material, however bears additionally want loads of carbs.”

Means places used cooking oil on the pet food to extend the bait’s fats content material and likewise to assist create a scent path from his bait. If one bear will get cooking oil on its paws and pads away into the woods, Means says it’s simpler for one more bear to chop its scent and discover the bait barrels.

“The very best bear bait is something you possibly can have on the market—pet food or pastries or no matter—{that a} bear can get to earlier than the mast crop hits,” says Means. “As a result of as soon as the mast crop hits, there’s nothing you possibly can put in a bait barrel {that a} bear will go to earlier than a bear goes to acorns. It’s simply that easy. Acorns are a bear’s prime rib, and that’s what they’ve developed feeding on.”

Means says he’s by no means had a lot luck with white bread, which he’s combined in together with his bait and seen black bears have a tendency to choose round. He additionally advises towards utilizing corn.

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“I feel corn is a horrible bear bait. Corn doesn’t actually have that a lot dietary worth to a bear. They will’t actually assimilate corn like a deer can. A deer has 4 stomachs and might glean each little little bit of nutrient out of corn whereas a bear’s intestine is brief and so they want one thing they’ll course of simpler and faster.”

Widespread black bear baits

  • Bread
  • Sweet
  • Cooking oil
  • Pet food
  • Donuts and different pastries
  • Oats
  • Popcorn
  • Meat scraps 

Bear Attractants in Populated Human Areas

As a result of black bears are opportunistic feeders, owners typically obtain undesirable visits from bears who’re on the lookout for a simple meal. Nearly all the time, says Means, these bears are sub-adult males who’ve been pushed out of one of the best pure forage spots (like all the selection berry patches) by dominant bears and are simply “strolling stomachs.” 

Two black bears eat from a knocked-over bird feeder.
Most “nuisance bear” complaints are brought on by food-based attractants like chook seed and trash. Joe / Adobe Inventory

“Out of 75 to 150 common ‘nuisance bear’ complaints per 12 months, I’d say 98 % of them are food-driven complaints,” says Means. “Not often can we even have a [true] nuisance bear scenario the place it’s moving into beehives or it tore into somebody’s cabin to get soda cans. It’s virtually all the time sub-adult bears and a food-related attractant … The simplest resolution? You take away the meals, you take away the bear. It’s simply that easy.”

Widespread Black Bear Attractants

  • Birdseed
  • Cat meals
  • Corn
  • Chickenfeed
  • Pet food
  • Fruit bushes
  • Grease
  • Grills or BBQs
  • Trash containing enticing meals sources
  • Vegetable gardens


What does a brown bear eat?

A brown bear eats the identical meals as a black bear (particularly in the case of vegetation and berries), however provided that brown bears stay in coastal areas, their food regimen is rather more depending on fish. The brown bears in Katmai Nationwide Park, as an illustration, can eat as much as 40 salmon in a day whereas getting ready for winter. The bears eat probably the most fatty, calorie-dense elements of the fish—just like the mind, pores and skin, and roe—and go away the leaner fillets behind. Brown bears are additionally extra prone to prey on new child ungulates (like fawns and moose calves) than black bears, and are additionally extra prone to try killing grownup ungulates.

What’s a bears’ favourite meals?

A black bear’s favourite meals are normally berries and white oak acorns. Black bears in Arkansas, as an illustration, favor blackberries, whereas a research of Pennsylvania black bears confirmed bears most popular wild cherries in the summertime. Within the fall, even hunters hoping to draw black bears with bait barrels of pet food and donuts are going to have a tough time drawing bears when there’s a very good white acorn crop within the woods.

Do black bears like cat meals?

Sure, black bears like cat meals. It doesn’t matter if it’s moist or dry cat meals, both. Black bears love a simple meal, so if a bear stumbles throughout a bowl of Meow Combine in your yard, he’s going to assist himself. The one dependable approach to stop a black bear from consuming your cat meals is to feed your cats inside.

Closing Ideas

A black bear feeding on ripe serviceberries.
A black bear consuming ripe serviceberries. NPS

So, what do black bears eat? Black bears are opportunistic eaters, which suggests they’ll eat absolutely anything they arrive throughout. They’re additionally omnivores, and although they do eat bugs and the occasional whitetail fawn or fresh-caught fish in non-coastal areas, the majority of their food regimen consists of vegetation and laborious and comfortable mast like grasses, berries, and nuts. A black bear’s food regimen is closely dependent upon seasonally-available forage, and so they eat as much as 20,000 energy a day in the course of the months earlier than a denning cycle in an effort to pack on as many kilos as attainable.



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