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Vegetation - the Dietary Mainstay

feeding_willow_catkinsVegetation is the primary bear food in northeastern Minnesota when all seasons are considered. 

In April, flower parts of aspen, willow, maple, ash, and hazel are the main foods. 

In May, plants, grass, and leaves appear.  For 2-3 weeks high quality food is everywhere.  The young vegetation is highly digestible because many of the nutrients are in a fluid form. 

(see video below)

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Ant Brood - an Important Food

ant_and_pupae.jpg Ant specialists refer to ant larvae and pupae as "brood."  These digestible clumps of fat and protein are the main source of animal protein for black bears over much of temperate North America.  Black bears have long, sticky tongues for probing into ant colonies, as do other ant specialists.

(see video below) 

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Berries - a Critical Food

gerry_eating_juneberries.jpg Berries are important foods throughout the black bear range.  The most commonly eaten berries in northeastern Minnesota are sarsaparilla berries, juneberries, cherries, dogwood berries, blueberries, and raspberries.   Many other berries are eaten, but they have shorter seasons, are scarce, or are less preferred.  A very few berries, including common berries like baneberries and blue bead lily berries, are not eaten.

(see video below) 

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Hazelnuts - a Favorite Food

hazelnuts_american.jpg Hazelnuts are one of the most important and preferred bear foods in northeastern Minnesota.  Across North America, availability of hard mast (nuts and acorns) is a major predictor of bear growth and reproductive success.  

(see video below)