black bear20,000 calories per day.  That’s how much the average male black bear needs to eat in the fall to put one enough fat for winter denning.  I call it denning because in reality black bears do not truly hibernate.  Marmots are the true hibernators of the Rocky Mountains, those furry fellows who are closely related to ground hogs.  Black bears do sleep for long periods of time, but on a nice, sunny warm day in January, are apt to come out of their dens and take a stroll around.

But back to my original point.  In order to survive sleeping much of the time in winter, black bears have to eat enormous quantities of food during late summer and early fall.  They become obsessed with finding and eating food to the exclusion of pretty much anything else.  Wildlife biologists call this obsession hyperphagia.  And when black bears are in hyperphagia in the Rocky Mountains, they try to eat 20,000 calories per day.  And what exactly are they eating?  Well, the normal black bear diet consists of berries, plants, grubs/insects, and carrion (animals that are already dead).  One of my favorite memories of a black bear was from a couple of years ago in the fall.  Bryon and I were hiking the Mt. Sanitas trail in the Boulder Mountain Parks, and were just starting the trail, when we spied a black bear sitting under an apple tree near the trailhead.  He was sitting on his butt, shoveling apples into his mouth as fast as he could.  That was one happy bear!

Thinking about the choices they have and how much they have to eat, it’s easy to understand why black bears go after garbage of the residents of mountain communities like Nederland.  I feel strongly that those of us who choose to live in the mountains, have to be mindful we are encroaching on the homes and habitats of wild animals.  In so doing, I don’t want to do anything that would jeopardize that animal’s existence, including providing food to a black bear.  Because as they say, a “fed bear is a dead bear.”  Mainly because bears that get into human food become aggressive and ultimately end up being destroyed.  At our home we don’t hang any bird feeders, not even hummingbird feeders.  We also choose to keep our garbage stored away inside, until we take it to the local transfer station once a week.

It is such a magical moment to see a black bear in the wild — it reminds of how special wilderness is.  I don’t want to do anything that might threaten black bears continued survival in this area.