Black Bear Diet

When black bears enter hyperphagia in late summer, they can consume up to 20,000 calories a day in preparation for hibernation. Their diet typically consists of natural foods, like berries, insects, and nuts, but human trash provides hungry bears with an easy-to-access, calorie-rich food source that can override the natural behavior of bears living in the wildland-urban interface.

Illustrations by Gloria Dickie

Chokecherries

Chokecherry is a species of bird cherry native to North America with a historic range that includes most of the continent. A small suckering shrub or small tree, chokecherry can grow to be 16 feet tall. Berries range from bright red to black and are somewhat bitter.

 

156 calories per 100 grams

Buffaloberries

Buffaloberries are a favorite food source for bears, particularly grizzlies in Banff National Park. The shrub, part of the shepherdia genus, is native to northern and western North America.

 

In order for an adult male grizzly bear to consume the required 35,000 calories a day, he must eat 200,000 buffaloberries.

 

Huckleberries

There are several species of huckleberries common to North America. In taste, the berries range from tart to sweet, with a flavor similar to blueberries, especially in blue- and purple-colored varieties.

 

37 calories per 100 grams

Serviceberries

Amelanchier, also known as juneberry and serviceberry, is a genus of about 20 species of deciduous-leaved shrubs and small trees in the Rose family. The fruit of several species are excellent to eat raw, tasting somewhat like a blueberry, and strongly accented by the almond-like flavor of the seeds.

 

90 calories per 100 grams

Pine Nuts

One of the most calorie-rich bear foods, pine nuts are an excellent source of nutrition for bears across North America. However, mountain pine beetles stand to threaten this natural food source, killing off a significant portion of mature whitebark pine in places like Yellowstone National Park. Reductions in the quantity or quality of pine nuts have been found to decrease birth rates, growth rates, and survival of bears.

 

673 calories per 100 grams

Acorns

Acorns are usually comprised of a single seed enclosed in a tough, leathery shell. Acorns take between about six and 24 months (depending on the species) to mature. Many woodland mammals in North America are dependent on acorns as main part of their diet.

 

387 calories per 100 grams

 

 

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