Before you start carving or setting out your pumpkins this Halloween, you may want to consider how close you live to bears. Police in West Springfield, Massachusetts reported seeing a black bear wandering around town on Wednesday eating pumpkins that residents have set outside their houses.
According to state wildlife biologist Laura Conlee, it is not unusual to see bears eating pumpkins, especially if they are relatively fresh.
“It’s a potential food source,” she told MassLive.com. “A lot of pumpkins are very sweet smelling.”
Pumpkins are not considered a staple of bear diets, but the animals will eat just about anything to bulk up ahead of winter. Conlee said that people who live in bear territory should be especially cautious where they put their trash and, outdoor grills, and bird feeders this time of year. Dry conditions in some parts of the country have led to food shortages in the wild, so bears have started encroaching on suburbs to make up the difference.
“We are still just begging people to keep everything nice and tight and clean, locked up and solid,” Montana state biologist James Jonkel told NBC.
Pumpkins are not considered a huge draw to bears, especially since carved Jack-O’-Lanterns provide little of the nutritious flesh that is the most desirable part of the fruit. Plenty of other wildlife, including raccoons, birds, and even butterflies, also enjoy eating pumpkins when they are available. Zoos will also occasionally feed their animals fresh pumpkins during Halloween.
There are currently no plans to track down the pumpkin-stealing bear in West Springfield.
You can watch these bears at the Bronx Zoo enjoy a few pumpkins below: