Black bears are currently preparing for winter by eating as much as they can get their paws on. This state is called hyperphagia.

Black bears are currently preparing for winter by eating as much as they can get their paws on. This state is called hyperphagia.

Dear Naturalist,

My husband and I have lived in our High Country home for thirty years. In all that time, we have kept bird feeders on our front porch. Last week, we had a black bear tear down the feeders and get into the bucket of seed. What should we do?

— Susan, Banner Elk

Dear Susan,

Aren’t we so fortunate to live in such an amazing place? We can climb any nearby mountain, and our view from the top is almost entirely green and blue.

Our homes have been built in a wild place, and so we shouldn’t be too surprised when wildlife shows up announced. In my opinion, the front porch is just as much attached to the black bear’s home as it is yours!

Black bears (Ursus americanus) were abundant in North America when European settlers first arrived, but their numbers quickly diminished. Predator eradication, deforestation, the chestnut blight, and the slow reproduction rate of the bears all played a role.

Since the 1970s, the black bear population in the state has steadily grown due to protection and management programs. Bears have expanded their range to reclaim all of Avery and Watauga counties.

This might be your first bear because there were fewer bears thirty years ago. However, there is an alternative cause.

With the cooler temperatures and shorter days, black bears are also entering a state called hyperphagia. I like this word. It means, “super-eater.”

Needing to store fat for the winter, bears are gorging on as many high calorie foods as they can find. Typically, they seek out nuts, insects and some berries.

Your seed bucket made for an easy few thousand calories. The sunflower seed is not a natural food for the bears and could tempt them to get in more trouble — in your trash cans.

Also, bears have incredible memories, especially where food is concerned. If you immediately hang new feeders, you might be wasting your money.

The best option is to not re-hang your feeders until winter. Don’t worry — our mountains will provide the birds with all they need to survive.

If you see the bear return to investigate your porch then do your best to safely frighten it away by banging pans or turning on loud music. “Kashmir” by Led Zeppelin should work just fine.

Keeping the bear wild you will protect it and your property.

If you have a question concerning flora and fauna, please email All of your questions will be answered. One or two will be featured next week. See you on the trails!

Amy Renfranz is a Certified Naturalist through the Yellowstone Association Institute and a Certified Environmental Educator in the state of North Carolina.

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