Discover Nature: Black Bears Prepare for Winter

Sep 13, 2016

Discover Nature this week as the American Black Bear (Ursus americanus) prepares for winter. 

Black bears begin to feed heavily in preparation for winter.
Credit Missouri Department of Conservation

As the weather cools off and we head into fall, black bears enter a phase called hyperphagia in which they eat heavily, accumulating a layer of body fat that results in a 30-percent weight-gain. This layer of fat will provide nourishment and insulation during winter, when bears enter a deep sleep-like state called torpor, usually lasting until April.

In preparation for this period of inactivity, bears eat a wide variety of food including grasses and forbs, berries, ants, bees and wasps, beetles, crickets, fish, frogs, small rodents, and carrion. Missouri’s fall acorn crop also provides an important food source.

In searching for food, bears claw open rotten stumps and turn over logs and rocks. When they find a supply of extra food they often cover it with debris and return to feed on it again. They can be attracted to human foods and may visit campsites, garbage disposal locations and bird feeders.

Take steps to prevent bear encounters, and remember, “a fed bear is a dead bear” when it comes to human interaction. Learn more about Missouri’s black bears and how to Be Bear Aware with the Missouri Department of Conservation.

Discover Nature is sponsored by the Missouri Department of Conservation.