Black bears eat fruits, nuts, honey, and plants apart from meat. For example, green plants like clovers and catkins are in their surroundings, and they eat them.
Since grass is also plenty around their habitat, does it mean they feed on that too?
Here’s what you should know.
Yes, black bears eat grass, and it’s one of their favorite plants since it’s easily available.
Additionally, black bears are naturally omnivorous, meaning they can feed on meat and other vegetation, including grass.
It’s now clear that black bears can eat grass as much as other plants. But, come to think of it, why would they eat grass if they have other choices?
Let us find out below.
Table of Contents
- Why Do Black Bears Eat Grass?
- What Type of Grass Do Black Bears Eat?
- Do Black Bears Eat Bear Grass?
- Do Black Bears Eat Hay?
- Nutritional Significance of Grass in Black Bears’ Diet
- When Do Black Bears Usually Eat Grass?
- Where Do Black Bears Eat Grass?
Why Do Black Bears Eat Grass?
Black bears may eat grass for different reasons such as:
At certain times the foods like nuts and berries that black bears prefer may be scarce. As a result, they may go for grass which is an easy alternative.
Additionally, black bears eating grass is also a special adaptation for them. In this case, they can survive well even when food seasons change.
Apart from the other foods that are available in their environment, grass helps digestion greatly. Since the black bear’s diet consists of tough foods like meat, adding grass helps improve digestion.
Grass is rich in fiber, making it fall among the perfect roughage for black bears. As a result, these mammals can easily break down all the other tough foods.
Grass supplies black bears with additional nutrients that may be lacking in their primary diet. In other words, grass is a quick source of almost all the nutrients for black bears.
They also eat foods that consist of animal matter which is quite unhealthy. Therefore grass comes to help in the same way veggies do to humans.
Black bears love to forage a wide range of foods around their environment. Due to this, if grass is plenty in a particular area, they will include it in their main diet.
Therefore, you may say that combining grass with other foods is just another way of showcasing their adaptation.
Most wild animals have several behavioral instincts. To clarify, if their ancestors used to feed on grass, they are more likely to do the same.
In this case, black bears have eaten grass since ancient times. As a result, black bears feed on grass to date.
Therefore, feeding on grass is a natural behavior of black bears. In other words, the grass is part of them when it comes to feeding.
What Type of Grass Do Black Bears Eat?
Black bears feed on different types of grasses depending on availability and season. In this case, some of the leading types of grass that they eat include:
This type of grass grows in the marshy and wetland areas surrounding black bears. In addition, black bears usually eat this grass’s soft shoots and leaves.
However, young black bears love to eat sedges more than adult ones. This is because of the softness of the leaves, which is a factor that makes chewing easy.
Reed Canary Grass
This type of grass is common for black bears but only grows around water bodies. Black bears always graze on their young leaves and shoot.
Black bears can easily access this type of grass in areas around mudflats. These mammals mostly eat the soft shoots, just as they do on most other types of grass.
Do Black Bears Eat Bear Grass?
Yes, black bears eat bear grass since it’s among the most common grass species in their natural habitat.
Despite that, bear grass is quite tough, unlike most others, which are quite soft. Due to this, black bears only feed on bear grass when the other options are not accessible.
Do Black Bears Eat Hay?
Currently, no clear information can clarify if black bears eat hay. However, hay is common for livestock since it’s dry and has a high texture.
From that fact, we see that even if black bears could eat hay, they wouldn’t make it their first option. To clarify, most of the grass types that black bears eat have soft shoots and leaves and are fresh.
Since hay is dry and not fresh, it would not be suitable for them.
Nutritional Significance of Grass in Black Bears’ Diet
Grass is one of the favorite greens for black bears and has an important nutritional significance. In general, 73% of the foods that black bears eat are greens, and grass falls under this percentage.
The total composition of grass in the 73% of greens that black bears eat may vary. However, it lies around 40% to 50%.
This percentage of grass plays an important role in the nutrition of black bears. For instance, grass contains several nutrients like:
- Vitamin C
These minerals and vitamins help black bears improve their natural health and enhance proper growth.
When Do Black Bears Usually Eat Grass?
Black bears eat grass throughout the year whenever they come across it. Despite that, there are specific periods when they feed on this vegetation more.
Below are some of the times when black bears eat more grass:
Spring Green Up
In spring, new grass shoots usually emerge as part of the normal grass growth. These tender grass shoots are always interesting to black bears.
As a result, they usually consume it more than at other times of the year.
Out Of Curiosity
Young black bears feed on grass as a result of curiosity. This happens when they try to learn about the foods around them and what they can eat.
As a result, they end up feeding on grass since it’s easily accessible around.
Black bears can eat more grass when other food options are not available. For example, there are times of the year when honey and nuts are less available.
Such times may be around winter when black bears will choose grass as their primary food.
Where Do Black Bears Eat Grass?
Black bears can access grass in different places around their habitat. For instance, they may get different types of grass in:
The Riparian Zones
These are the areas near or around water bodies, and they have different vegetation, including grass. In this case, black bears may eat grass in the riparian zones while looking for other foods like fish.
Meadows and Open Fields
In these places, the grass is easy to find, and black bears don’t need to look around. Therefore, meadows are among the most common places where black bears eat grass.
Mountainous regions also have a lot of green vegetation suitable for black bears. So, as they graze for different types of plants, they usually eat a lot of grass since it’s readily available.
Black bears eat grass, and it’s one of their favorites since it covers a large percentage of their diet. In clarification, the most common types of grass that black bears feed on include:
- Reed canary grass
- Spike rush
Additionally, there are seasons when black bears feed on grass more than usual. Some of these times are:
- During spring green up when the grass shoots are more tender.
- When other sources of food, like honey and nuts, are less.
It is clear that black bears eat a lot of grass looking at the high percentage it covers in their diet. So, does this mean that they are vegetarians?
- Riparian Habitats – Wildlife Heritage Foundation
- What are black bears’ seasonal eating habits? – Yellowstone Bear World