Black bear standing next to a car

Pulling all-nighters— black bears’ response to human development

Study shows human proximity affecting the sleeping patterns of black bears

August 14, 2019

Kathy ZellerEnvironmental Conservation, writes in  The Conversation about her recent study of the behavior of Massachusetts black bears as they move into human-dominated areas.  

 

From “Black bears adapt to life near humans by burning the midnight oil”: 

Why would black bears use populated areas? They are omnivorous opportunists with a good sense of smell, and can sniff out calorie-rich foods that often are found in developed areas, such as bird seed, pet food, garbage and even agricultural crops. These foods may be especially attractive to bears before and after hibernation, when the animals are living solely off stored body fat.  

Before hibernation in the fall, bears enter a metabolic state called hyperphagia – literally, excessive eating – in which they consume 15,000 to 20,000 calories a day. That’s roughly equivalent to eight large cheese pizzas or five gallons of chocolate ice cream.

Our observation of black bears acclimating to developed areas and becoming more nocturnal echoes a wider trend observed among wildlife worldwideWild animals are increasing their nocturnal activity in response to development and other human activities, such as hiking, biking and farming. Understanding how, when and why these nocturnal shifts occur can help prevent wildlife-human conflict and keep both people and animals safe.  

For example, most human-bear conflict arises from people inadvertently making calorie-rich foods, like bird seed, garbage and pet food, available to bears. Knowing that bears seek out these foods more often at night and in areas with certain housing densities can help managers educate people in avoiding conflict. And people who are scared of bears may be comforted to know that most of the time, black bears are just as scared of them. 

 

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