Shortage of CT acorns makes human food sources more tempting for bears
CONNECTICUT – The Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection sent out a reminder Friday that bears begin quests for “more food” in the fall and that makes them “very active” for the next few months. weeks and an acorn shortage may make them a little crazier than normal in 2022.
During the fall season, black bears increase their food intake to add needed fat stores to help them survive the winter, DEEP officials said. Connecticut’s black bear population, estimated to number over 1,000 individuals, is found in any of the state’s 169 cities. During the fall, bears forage for high-calorie nuts and seeds for up to 20 hours a day, DEEP officials said.
The annual marathon of energy consumption is called binge eating. During binge eating, bears need to eat 20,000 calories a day, or 10 times the calories they normally consume, in an effort to gain as much weight and insulating fat as possible before they go to bed for the winter, according to DEEP managers.
A pound of acorns has about 2,100 calories and a pound of blueberries has 256. So it takes bears a while each day to find 20,000 calories of nuts and berries, but only one bird feeder full of sunflower seeds Black oil or a trash can with leftovers can reward a bear with a day’s worth of calories for less than an hour’s work, making human-supplied food even more tempting, DEEP officials said.
This year, the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station recently completed the 2022 Oak Mast Monitoring Program, which documented a widespread crop failure of acorns in Connecticut for the 2022 fall season, following an above-average harvest in 2021. Fall acorns are an important food source for black bears. The lack of acorns this year will cause bears to seek out other food sources, including foods associated with humans, fueling “a growing public safety concern” associated with their continued population expansion, experts said. responsible.
Black bears that regularly consume food associated with humans like birdseed, trash and pet food become “habituated” and “food-conditioned,” DEEP officials said. As the bear population continues to grow and bears become increasingly food conditioned, “conflicts with humans will continue to increase, and food conditioned bears pose a greater risk to them- themselves as well as public safety, and often cause more property damage to homes, cars, pets and livestock,” DEEP officials said.
With two months left in the year, DEEP has already tracked record numbers of bears breaking into homes, with 69 incidents this year far surpassing the previous record of 45 in 2020.
“Black bears should never be fed, whether intentionally or not,” said Jenny Dickson, director of DEEP’s wildlife division. “Bears that are attracted to homes by easily accessible food lose their fear of humans. Bears that are rewarded with easy meals spend more time in neighborhoods and near people, increasing safety risks public, the likelihood of property damage and the possibility that the bears may be struck and killed by vehicles.”
DEEP has several best practices for residents to reduce the likelihood of a bear encounter, available online at DEEP’s “Living with Black Bears” website,https://portal.ct.gov/DEEP-Living-with-Black-Bears. DEEP has also created a video incorporating many of these best practices, available here.