Bears’ appetites are biologically programmed to go into hyperdrive in the fall because they need to put on a thick layer of life-sustaining fat before they turn in for the winter. This annual power-eating marathon is called hyperphagia.
Hyperphagia is in full swing now because many fruits and berries (soft mast) are still available, calorie-dense acorns and nuts (hard mast) are ripening, and bears’ body clocks are ticking louder and louder. During hyperphagia, bears are like Olympic athletes in training. They must consume ten times as many calories as they need during the spring and summer if they’re going to den up in tip-top shape. That means finding 20,000 calories a day or more. That’s a lot of nuts and berries.
Finding Enough Food
Depending on the availability of natural foods, bears may need to travel long distances well outside of their normal ranges to find enough calories. They seldom sleep more than three or four hours a day. They are sleep-deprived, constantly on the prowl, and myopically focused on finding as much food as possible. So they can be more willing to take risks, like venturing near homes, campgrounds and trails, and trying to cross busy highways.
In fact, bears can be so absorbed in their mission to find food they may not see, hear or notice you. And they can be protective of the food sources they find, whether that’s a bunch of fallen apples, a bird feeder or an overflowing garbage can or dumpster.
How to Prevent Problems
You can help prevent problems for the hard-working bears in your area.