What does the bear eat?

Written by Nicklas Iversen | Last edited 28. May 2021

The bear is an omnivore. This means that it eats both meat and plants. You can read more about the bear’s diet on this page.

Foto: Roger Brendhagen
Foto: Roger Brendhagen.


The bear is quite similar to us humans in terms of it’s diet, as it is able to eat both meat and plants. Animals with such a diet are called omnivores.

What the bear eats varies according to the season. In the early spring, it eats the carcasses of animals that have died during the winter. When the ant hills start to wake up, the bear will eat large quantities of ants. It uses its large paws and claws to scratch anthills, logs and stumps open to get access ants, larvae and eggs, which it licks up with its long tongue. 

When animals in the deer family (Cervidae) like moose and reindeer calve (give birth to young), the bear will be able to kill the newborn calves. They are easy prey. As they grow, they become harder to hunt. Speeds of up to 65 km/h have been recorded for bears, which means that they are capable of catching an adult moose. But this requires a lot of energy, and bears prefer to take the path of least resistance when it comes to obtaining food

Grass and herbs are important in early summer, while in late summer and autumn blueberries are the main food source. A bear can eat 90 litres of blueberries in the course of a day.

Ozon, Krononsky Naturreservat, Kamtsjatka, Russland, sept. 03 Ungbjørner beiter blåbær.


The bear is a predator and, given the chance, will eat sheep, domestic reindeer and sometimes cattle.

When bears take animals like sheep, they will frequently eat the udder and breast fat, then leave the rest of the animal in favour of taking another sheep and doing the same again. From our point of view, this can seem like a tremendous waste and senseless slaughter. And it goes without saying that no one wants to find sheep with their udder torn off. The sheep is frequently still alive! From the bear’s point of view, it is a matter of using energy efficiently – of eating what provides the most in return.  

Domestic reindeer can also be taken by a bear, but this is largely limited to newborn calves, which are easy prey.

We often hear the term ‘killer bear’ used on individual bears that kill livestock. This makes many people think that there is something strange about or wrong with the bear, but a bear that kills sheep is completely normal. All bears can take sheep. Whether or not it eats sheep is more to do with their availability than anything else.

Skrevet av Bjørn Henrik Stavdal Johansen, naturveileder ved Besøkssenter rovdyr Flå. 

This article has been written by Bjørn Henrik Stavdal Johansen, a nature guide at Visitor Centre Carnivore Flå.