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Bear Attractants

Photo of a bear in a bear trap.

Shocking as it sounds, simple human foods—sunflower seeds, orchard apples—kill bears every year in Montana. Why? Because once a bear finds these easy sources of food they become conditioned almost immediately to favor them over the more difficult to find and less calorie laden natural bear foods such as clover, ants and grubs, and wild chokecherries. A bear seeking human foods is certain to come in conflict sooner or later with people.

Capturing and removing bears to a new area is notoriously ineffective. An even more expensive and time consuming step is to try to retrain bears to eat natural bear foods by using Karelian bear dogs, cracker shells, and bean bag rounds to convince them to move away from areas used by humans.

Did You Know Sunflower Seeds Will Kill A Bear?

It is useless to retrain bears only to have them relearn their dangerous habits because nearby residents fail to eliminate the bear's access to bear attractants. The most effective way to save Montana's bears is to prevent them from obtaining any human foods or garbage in the first place.

It is that simple, and that difficult.

Common Bear Attractants

Click on the images below to learn more about each attractant.

Bird feeders

Avoid using bird feeders March through November; birds don't need supplemental feed at this time and bird seed is irresistable to bears.

Human Garbage

Human garbage is a primary bear attractant. Garbage should be stored where bears can neither smell nor gain access to it, either in a bear-proof container or inside a building.

Human Food

All human food is a bear attractant.

Barbecue Grills

Grills with food and grease, as well as cooking untensils, leftovers, and used plates and cups attract bears.

Pets and Pet food

Avoid feeding pets outside at dawn or dusk when bears are most active and do not leave their food unattended at any time.


Bears generally do not present a threat to livestock, but special caution should be taken during lambing and calving.


A carcass may or may not be a bear attractant, depending on how clean it is.


Beehives, honey, and bee larvae are especially attractive to bears.

Compost Pile

Anything other than grasses and leaves should not be composted outdoors. Composting meat, fish, oil, dairy, kitchen waste, melon and other fruit are all odorous and can easily lure a bear to your home.

Fruit Trees And Gardens

Bears crave fruit and vegetables. Pick fruit and vegetables as they ripen, and plant your garden as far away from your house as possible.


Use native plant landscaping whenever possible. Avoid plants that attract bears.


Don't leave food or garbage in a vehicle or the back of a pick-up truck.

Don't feed wildlife

Don't put out salt licks, grain, or deer blocks to attract wild animals.