For white-tailed deer, both bucks and does push to add on weight during fall by gobbling up high-fat foods like acorns and other wild “mast,” which also includes hickory and beech nuts and fruits and berries. Bucks especially need extra fat because they can lose 25% of their body weight from chasing does during the mating season, which begins in October. A poor mast crop in fall and winter also can result in does producing fewer fawns in spring.
In particular, black bears, whose mating season ended in late August, are in a power-eating frenzy now to prepare for winter slumber in dens (though not true hibernation in Georgia). During hyperphagia, bears may need to consume 10 times the calories that they need in spring and summer.
So intense is their appetite now that they may wander far and wide to find the extra rations they need. They’re also apt to take more risks, such as venturing near homes and campgrounds or crossing busy highways.
No surprise, then, that reports often pop up at this time of year of black bears roaming neighborhoods and backyards, leaving in their wake destroyed bird feeders and rummaged-through garbage cans.
IN THE SKY: From David Dundee, Tellus Science Museum astronomer: The moon will be new on Sunday. Rising in the east are Venus, shortly before sunrise; Mars, just before midnight; Jupiter, at sunset; and Saturn, just after dark. Mercury is not visible now.
Charles Seabrook can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.