Black bears emerging from dens in the spring months have basically half a year to gain enough fat reserves to sustain them through a food-less winter spent in hibernation. In their searches for natural foods these opportunistic omnivores are often sidetracked by a bounty of human foods, even more so in years of poor natural food conditions, when late frosts or drought hinders the growth of natural bear foods.
Black bears require foods that are easily obtainable, abundant, and high in calories. Easy, high-calorie meals like those found in unsecured trash cans, bird feeders, livestock grain, pet food and fruit trees make irresistible attractants to bears and lure them into close proximity to people and their homes.
Whether it is a bear’s first visit or a repeat visit to someone’s yard, their presence may lead to conflict. Bears that locate human food rewards often lose their fear of humans, may become aggressive, and may cause property damage. Once a bear becomes used to being around people and conditioned to receiving food rewards – and has experienced no negative response – options for wildlife agencies can be limited. Many times, unwanted behavior that people have allowed, and cultivated, results in bears being killed as “problem” or “nuisance” animals.
Rather than change their own behavior in reducing attractants, residents often want wild bears to:
- change their behavior
- be moved far away
- be destroyed as nuisances
We can help reduce bear mortalities and improve public safety by minimizing the availability of human food attractants! Together with our partners we have chosen a proactive approach to addressing this problem. Download Bear Smart Tips (pdf).
“Unsecured attractants are the single biggest factor for bears coming into conflict with people.” — Tim Manley, Grizzly Bear Specialist for Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks
“The primary cause of human and black bear conflict along the urban-wildland interface has been attributed to the availability of human-food sources.” — Spencer et al. 2007, Beckmann et al. 2008, Greenleaf et al. 2009
“Increasing human conflicts can be an indicator of increasing bear populations, but locally is believed to be more a factor of increasing human population and development in prime bear habitat.” — Black Bear Data Analysis Unit Management Plan Draft, DAU B-6, Colorado Parks and Wildlife, 2012
“The root of the problem is that we’re leaving food out to attract bears.” — Tom Beck, retired CDOW black bear researcher