It's that time of year when everything is starting to prepare for the winter months. A few weeks ago the bees were scurrying around as they prepared to hibernate. Now, we have word that the black bears are doing the same thing.

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources reports that "brown bears are packing on the pounds in preparation for a long winter spent in their dens."

Black bears typically will enter their dens for their long winter nap by December. The females usually hit the dens a little earlier, sometimes in October. Before they doze off for the winter, they spend the last few months looking for foods that are rich in calories -- to help them bulk up for the winter. They need to put on this extra weight because a bear can lose up to one-third of their body weight while hibernating.

Where are the black bears finding food?

Bears have an excellent sense of smell. They will typically feed on natural foods like acorns, hickory nuts and hazelnuts, but the seed you put in your bird feeder is also very appealing to a bear for two reasons...1) those seeds are high in calories and 2) most bird feeders are pretty easy to access for a bear.

Some of the other things you might have around your yard that a hungry black bear might like -- grills with food debris, unsecured trash, and even outdoor pet foods.

You may want to consider removing bird feeders and any other potential food sources until bears have entered their dens.

How often do black bears wander into the Grand Rapids area?

It happens quite frequently. In the last couple of years there have been stories of bears in Coopersville, and also the west side of Grand Rapids.

What to do if you do see a bear.

If you see a bear in your yard or on a trail, remain calm and be bear SMART:

S - Stand your ground. Do not run or play dead.
M - Make loud noises and back away slowly.
A - Always provide a clear, unobstructed escape route for the bear.
R - Rarely do bears attack, if they do, fight back.
T - Treat bears with respect and observe them from a distance.

Read more about being bear SMART on the Michigan DNR website.


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