Bears may be on the move at anytime, but they're usually most
active at night or during early morning. Bears are omnivorous, eating almost anything
from berries, corn, acorns, beechnuts, or even grass to table scraps, carrion,
honey and insects. During late summer and fall, black bears fatten up for winter
hibernation. At this time, they may actively feed for up to 20 hours a day, ingesting
up to 20,000 calories.
Bears and Winter
Bears are usually dormant in winter, remaining in their dens,
which are usually rock caverns, excavated holes beneath shrubs, trees or dead
falls, in hollow trees or brushy thickets. A hibernating bear's heart rate and
breathing slow and its body temperature drops slightly. During this time, they
do not eat or drink, or pass body wastes. A hibernating bear relies on stored
fat to make it through winter. On warm winter days, however, bears may emerge
to look for food.
Mating and Breeding
In Pennsylvania, bears mate primarily from early June to mid
July. Males are very aggressive towards each other at this time.
Sows give birth in January; litters number one to five cubs.
The newborns are blind, toothless, and covered with short, fine hair that seems
to inadequately cover their pink skin. Cubs nurse in the den while the sow is
hibernating. Nurtured with the sow's rich milk; they grow from a birth weight
as light as 10 ounces to as much as 10 pounds by the time they leave the den in
late March or early April. Boars do not help rear young.
Most black bear cubs stay with the sow for a little more than
a year. They watch her every move and learn by imitating her. Cubs are playful,
regularly romping and wrestling with their littermates. The sows are very protective
of cubs, sending them up trees if danger threatens. Adult males occasionally kill
and eat cubs. The family group disbands the following summer when the sow again
is ready to breed.
What To Do If You Live in Bear Country
If you live or have a summer home in bear country, you may
have to make adjustments in your lifestyle if you plan to coexist peacefully with
these large animals. Make sure you don't encourage resident bears to become 'nuisance'
bears by carelessly handling garbage or intentionally feeding bears. Your carelessness
could lead to a bear's removal from the area or its death.
Black bears will consume almost anything. They will eat human
food, garbage, bird feeder offerings, pet foods and livestock feed. They also
raid cornfields and destroy beehives. Once bears find easily-accessible food sources,
whether on a farm or in a housing development, they overcome their wariness of
people and visit regularly. Often the only way to get rid of these unwanted, late-night
visitors is to remove the food source for about a month. Even then, there are
You can reduce bear visits to your property by keeping garbage out of a bear's
reach and as odor-free as possible. Encourage your neighbors to do the same. Store
trash inside a building, garage or shed. Don't put out your trash until the morning
of collection day. Be sure garbage cans are cleaned regularly using hot water
and chlorine bleach.
If you have pets, bring their food pans inside at night. Speaking
of dogs, bears generally steer clear of chained or penned dogs. Unleashed dogs
that approach bears, however, may be perceived as a threat and could be seriously
killed. If you have a dog in bear country, don't let it roam far from the house,
leash it whenever you hike in the woods, and keep it in the house or in a kennel
Other around-the-home tips include cleaning grease from your
barbecue grill after every use, and properly disposing of grill grease. Don't
dump the grease out back. If you feed birds during summer, you may want to bring
all bird feeders, including hummingbird feeders, in at night. Bears also are attracted
to fruit, melon rinds or other tasty items in mulch or compost piles.
Beehives attract bears, especially right after bruins come
out of hibernation in the spring and during the peak honey production period in
late summer and fall. You can protect your bees, honey and equipment if you surround
hives with bear-deterrent fences. Contact the Pennsylvania Game Commission for
more information about fencing.
Black bears are also attracted to sweet and field corn, especially
in the milk stage. Bears can devastate cornfields. Call the Game Commission if
bears are causing extensive damage; officers may be able to help you with your
Recreational feeding areas -- dumpsters, garbage pits and
wildlife feeders where people gather to see bears -- are bad news for bears and
people. Bears that frequent these areas often loose their natural fear of humans.
Bears drawn to these places often take the next step, the one that puts them in
close proximity to human dwellings. These are the bears that sometimes climb onto
porches or break into houses to investigate enticing smells. Other times they
raid bird feeders, clean out dog dishes, kill domestic animals or rifle through
If a bear is visiting your property, there are two possible
courses of action. The first could be to make loud noises or shout at the bear,
kind of like you'd react to your neighbor's dog getting into your trash, but keep
your distance. The second option, would be to leave the bear alone, and clean
up the bear's mess after it leaves. Follow up by making sure you eliminate bear
feeding opportunities so the next time one comes around it will keep moving.
If bears are feeding regularly at a site, encourage your neighbors
or community to clean up and close the area. Don't wait until spectators become
a problem, or bears start roaming the neighborhood. Eliminate the feeding source;
it's what lured the bears to your area.