Thu. Dec 7th, 2023
It's September: What are black bears doing in Ontario?

The nights are getting cooler, the days are getting shorter, and the bears know there is limited time to finish gaining weight before retreating to their winter dens.

The food will only be available until mid-October, so the days of feasting are ending quickly.

Just like summer, bears focus on eating in September. But today, that approach reaches a whole new level, called hyperphagia.


Hyperphagia is an abnormal increase in appetite. No matter how much you eat, your hunger does not decrease.

bear in the camp

Black bears enter a state of hyperphagia in late summer and fall.

Fall is when food is usually plentiful and bears waste no time consuming everything that is available.

They can spend 20 hours a day searching for food!

Soft Mast Foods Versus Hard Mast Foods

Soft foods are fruits and berries such as cherries, raspberries, blackberries and blueberries.

These will be available in early summer and will remain available through September.

Hard foods are nuts such as acorns, beech and hazelnuts.

beechnuts and beech forest picBlack bears love beech nuts!

These take a little longer to develop than soft masts and will be available from late August through September.

Hard mast crops have more calories than summer food sources. There are about 260 calories in a pound of blueberries, but a pound of acorns has over 1,700 calories!

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Bears can gain the most weight from the hard food sources available in the fall.

However, not all bears have access to hard foods such as acorns from red oak trees or beech nuts from American beech trees.

bear eatingPhoto: Kassandra and Jeff Moore

Bears living in northern areas where these species do not grow rely more on soft mast foods. Mountain ash berries are a very important fall food source for black bears in the boreal forests of northern Ontario.

How much weight can bears gain in the fall?

If hard food sources such as acorns and beech trees are abundant, black bears can gain up to 1 kg, or just over 2 pounds, per day.

By the time a bear is ready to enter its den, it may have doubled its body weight from when it woke up in the spring.

Bears don’t care about their waists expanding; In fact, it’s a sign that a bear is healthy!

Entering their dens with a thick layer of blubber means that bears will be able to survive the winter, reproduce, and care for their young better than bears that enter their dens in poor conditions.

Make some noise on that fall color walk!

One of the best times to visit parks is when the fall colors are in full swing. But hiking in the fall requires additional preparation and safety considerations.

During hyperphagia, bears are so focused on food that they may not hear someone approaching.

hikers on the trail

Warn the bears. Talk, sing, yell “hello bear” from time to time, anything to let wildlife know you’re approaching.

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Bears don’t want to meet you as much as you don’t want to meet them.

If they can sense you beforehand, bears will often avoid you completely.

Lock up your wildlife attractants!

Because bears are so focused on finding food, No You want to entice them to go to campgrounds or campgrounds by having items like food and toiletries available for them to investigate.

person putting cooler in trunk

If you are camping in the countryside, hang your food package on a tree four meters from the ground and two meters from the trunk.

If you are car camping, keep all wildlife attractants in the closed trunk of your locked car. Make sure all the windows are closed too!

Be careful with bears!

Black bears are amazing animals.

Let’s do everything we can to respect and coexist with the black bears that call our protected areas home!