Bear eating a tomato

The brown bear: Food and feeding habits

Facts about bear's diet and foraging behaviour that might surprise you


Brown bears are omnivores. They feed to almost 80 percent on tree bark, leaves, roots, mushrooms, nuts, fruit and berries. Besides plant foods, they are not averse to meat (for example: small rodents, birds, frogs or snakes), fish and carrion. 

Here are five interesting facts about the eating habits of bears you may not have heard of:

5 facts about the feeding habits of the brown bear

1. A set of teeth for any eventuality: the bear's teeth are adapted to its broad range of food. The bear has the kind of canines typical for predators. Its molars with their broad crowns are well suited to thoroughly grinding plant foods. 

2.  Weight loss in sleep: hibernating bears lose a lot of weight during the winter. Male bears lose about 22 percent and females as much as 40 percent of their body weight.  

3. Wanderlust: bears roam extensive areas in their search for food. If there is little food around, the area is all the bigger. Although bears tend to move at a rather slow pace, over short stretches they can reach speeds of up to 50 kilometres per hour if necessary. On their daily foraging trips, they often cover stretches of up to 40 kilometres. 

4. They're everywhere: due to the lack of a specialised diet, brown bears can adapt to diverse  habitats. Apart from the Arctic, brown bears are found across the whole of the northern hemisphere.  

5. Ready-to-eat food: waste is a rich source of fat and carbohydrates. In areas populated by bears, bear-proof waste bins prevent confrontations between bears and people.

Swimmers and honey lovers

Honey is a rare treat that bears love in particular. It is also healthy – among other things, honey strengthens the immune system. Bears use their large paws to skillfully open beehives and are not easily chased away by attacking bees.

Bears are also good swimmers and can cross rivers with ease. They are also adept at fishing: they hurl their prey out of the water with one blow of the paw, catch and devour it.  

foraging for 16 hours a day

It's hard to imagine, but bears spend the largest part of their lives looking for food. They forage for a full 16 hours per day. Bears are omnivores. They roam fixed territories, covering many kilometres a day.  

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