Bear Behaviour, Food and Diet

Understanding bear behaviour will lead to fewer human-bear conflicts, which is our goal in Whistler.


Knowing what to do in the case of a bear encounter depends on reading the bear’s behaviour—which can be predictable. 

Bears can be highly vocal animals. Their vocalizations can help you better understand their behaviour and can hint at what they are going to do next.

Food and diet

Although bears are a part of the Carnivora family, they are actually omnivores and sometimes 90 per cent of their diet is plant-based. They are often viewed as food opportunists. The meat they eat is often carrion (leftover carcass). Their food sources are very seasonal and will move all over the mountain and valley bottom.

Bear into garbage RMOW photo

Example of some common food sources for bears in Whistler:

  • young plants in spring
  • carrion (leftover carcass)
  • insects
  • berries
  • mountain ash
  • skunk cabbage roots

Garbage, birdfeed, and pet food are not a part of bears’ natural diet. Do your part to keep these items out of their menu options.

Seasonal dietary needs

Spring and fall are critical times to manage your attractants, as food is limited and bears are especially hungry. 

After emerging from their dens in the spring, bears are hungry, yet most trees and shrubs won’t grow leaves for another month.

In the fall, bears enter a state called hyperphagia increasing their caloric intake from 2,500 to 20,000 calories a day in preparation for winter. Bears in Whistler do not rely on salmon, because the salmon cannot make it up past the Cheakamus Canyon or Nairn Falls. 

Poor berry years place additional pressure on bears to find alternative food sources, as berries are one of their main sources of food.

It is important to always manage your attractants properly, but we ask that you be hyper vigilant during these times.

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