Pet food is a super-concentrated source of protein, fat, nutrients and calories. That’s why pet food is super-attractive to bears. In fact, pet food is one of the top three things that attract bears to neighborhoods and homes.
A bear’s daily calorie needs quadruple in late summer and early fall. That means a bear that normally needs 5,000 calories a day must now find and consume about 20,000 calories each and every day to gain enough weight to safely hibernate for the winter. A bear would need to find and eat 447 acorns or 2,367 blueberries to get 1,700 calories. That’s about the same number of calories in just one pound of dog chow. A 12-pound bag delivers a whole day’s worth of calories in a handy carry-off container.
Emptying a bowl of pet food or getting their paws on a whole bag teaches bears that calories are a lot faster and easier to come by around homes and in neighborhoods than out in the woods.
8 Tips for Protecting Pets (and People) in Bear Country
Bears have incredibly sensitive noses, so even an empty food bowl can attract a hungry bear. Bears are also very smart and quick learners, so you can be sure that after it licks the bowl clean, it will visit other homes in your neighborhood looking for more easy pickings and come back to your place looking for more. You can’t blame the bear for discovering an easy food source. But you can help keep pets, people and bears safe.
1. Feed pets indoors whenever possible. A screened porch is not “indoors.”
2. Put out single servings if you must feed outside and bring pet food and dishes inside after pets have eaten. Leaving food or empty bowls out overnight can attract many species of wildlife, including bears, fox, skunks and raccoons.
3. Store pet food inside a secure structure such as a garage, shed or barn (not on or under your porch or in a plastic tub outside. Bears are strong and can easily drag off plastic tubs full of food). If you must store food outside, store in a bear-resistant container, not inside a vehicle or the back of the truck.
4. If pets are tethered, make sure they are able to move a safe distance away from their food bowl.
5. Outdoor fences or pens should be high enough to keep wildlife out and have an underground skirt that extends outward a minimum of two feet to keep a bear from digging under the fence. (Bears are very industrious and will work hard for food.)
6. Fenced areas should be located as far as possible from tree/shrub lines or other cover for wildlife. Keep areas around outside enclosures well mowed to reduce cover.
7. Deter bears with a properly installed and maintained electric fence. A lidded pen or roofed enclosure is also an option and can be a good choice if mountain lions roam the area or if you have a small pet that could attract birds of prey.
8. Check the yard before letting pets outside at night. Make noise and turn on outside lights or use a flashlight to startle any wildlife that could be in the yard. Installing motion detector lights around your property will enable you to see bears and any other wildlife that might be around before you let your pet out or go outside.
What if you find a bear near your pet’s food?
Never approach or corner a bear. If the bear can easily get away, make a lot of noise from a safe distance. Bang pots and pans or blow an air horn or whistle and yell at the bear to get out of there. You can also throw small objects like softballs or small rocks at the bear.
When the bear leaves
Once the bear has left, alert your neighbors. Then remove all food and food bowls and thoroughly clean and disinfect the pet’s area. If possible, feed pets indoors for the next two weeks.
Thanks for doing your part to keep pets, people and bears safe.