With Hibernation Fast Approaching, Wildlife Officials Warn of Increasing Bear Activity

The pressure is on for bears to find a minimum of 20,000 calories a day.

American Black Bear
Photo: Lynn_Bystrom/Getty Images

It's that time of year again, folks.

Along with changing leaves and all things pumpkin spice, fall temperatures have America's bears entering hibernation hyperdrive.

The North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission issued a warning last week that black bears are currently preparing for hibernation and will be looking for food outside of their normal ranges.

"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," the commission explained in a news release. "This annual power-eating marathon is called hyperphagia. During hyperphagia, bears must consume 10 times as many calories as they need during the spring and summer, which means finding 20,000 calories a day or more."

"To find those extra calories," the commission continued, "bears will often forage outside of their normal ranges, venturing near homes, campgrounds and trails, and trying to cross busy highways to find food."

Bears in hyperphagia can be extra protective of the food sources they find, so it's particularly important to keep food secure and away from bears.

To help keep yourself and the bears safe, the commission is reminding people to follow the six BearWise Basics. The most critical is to never ever feed a bear — either intentionally or unintentionally.

"Store bags of trash inside cans in a garage, sheds or other secure area, or use garbage cans or trash containers with a secure latching system or that are bear-resistant," advised Colleen Olfenbuttel, the Commission's black bear biologist. "Place trash outside as late as possible, on trash pick-up days — not the night before."

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Black bears, by nature, are not aggressive animals. If left alone, most that wander into residential areas will quickly return to their natural habitat.

"No matter where you are or where you live, if you encounter a bear, the most important thing to do is leave the bear alone. Don't try to feed it or chase it off — we can't stress this enough," Olfenbuttel added. "Crowds of people can unnerve a bear, perhaps causing it to act defensively."

For more information about coexisting with black bears, visit BearWise.org.

Be safe out there, y'all!

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