A fed bear is a dead bear! This axiom is not referring to a black bear eating acorns, berries, larvae, insects or even honey. It is referring to the intentional and often unintentional food, known as attractants, which humans provide each and every day to black bears. This comes in the form of attractants like garbage, birdseed, hummingbird feeders, pet food, livestock food, greasy barbecues, smokers and fish cookers, and other wildlife foods accessed by black bears. These attractants teach them to approach homes and people for more food. Black bears are the third in the order of intelligence. They learn bad behavior and pass it on to their cubs.
Black bears are opportunist feeders. They will eat almost anything that comes in front of them. It gets them in trouble. Their olfactory ability is unequaled! A bloodhound dog’s sense of smell is 300 times greater than a human’s. The black bear’s sense of smell is 2,000 times greater than a human’s.
A black bear biologist tells of a bear that was straight-line tracked to a location 5 miles away. They went to the location and found a fish fry taking place. The bear had smelled it that far away. Also, check your house for ants and termites — they smell that too!
Stash the trash! Lock it up in a secure location. A screened-in porch is not a secure location. Take it out to the curb on the pickup morning. Bears do eat garbage and the inedible material is ingested. The aluminum foil and plastic damages their teeth and intestinal tracts. The damage results in a slow and painful death for them.
Birdseed and hummingbird feeders are fast food and energy drinks to black bears. Seven pounds of birdseed has 18,095 calories, while a 32-ounce hummingbird feeder has 3,200 calories. In comparison, 60-80 acorns (1 pound) provides only 2,082 calories.
How does this compare to a black bear’s daily nutrition requirements? A 250 pound male black bear must eat 3,000 calories a day to maintain weight. Nursing females require more calories in order to nurse her cubs. A female must meet a certain level of body fat, not only for hibernation, but to allow her blastocysts (embryos) to implant.
On top of all these calories needed for daily living, they must consume 20,000 calories per day during hyperphagia (a period of excessive eating and drinking to fatten for hibernation) to gain the needed 3-5 pounds a day needed for hibernation. They are in hyperphagia now!
If you intentionally feed bears, stop it! You put yourself and others at risk of harm, yourself at risk for criminal and civil liabilities and the untimely death of the black bear.
If you are aware or suspect poaching or feeding of black bears, call the Georgia DNR Call the Ranger Hotline at 1-800-241-4113 (or *DNR for AT&T Mobility customers) seven days a week, 24 hours a day.
Save a black bear’s life and remove the attractants!
Lt. Col. (ret.) Gerald D. Hodge Jr. is founder of the “Appalachia Georgia Friends of the Bears,” whose mission is the reduction of bear-human conflict through proactive educational outreach programs, increasing public awareness about coexisting with black bears, the use of humane bear deterrents and advocacy. He can be reached at AGFriendsoftheBears@gmail.com.