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Do Bears Eat Pumpkins?

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When you think of pumpkins, there are many things that come to mind like pumpkin pie, pumpkin-spiced lattes, Halloween, trick-or-treating, and pumpkin-scented candles. Bears are never a part of that list, however, you may need to add them.

Do bears eat pumpkins?

Bears eat pumpkins and they seem to enjoy them just as much, or even more than we do. Pumpkins are packed full of healthy nutrients and calories, both of which bears need, especially before they hibernate. In the fall, bears are seen often stealing and eating pumpkins, so you may want to take precautions.

a brown bear eating pumpkin near the rocks

Bears love to eat pumpkins they stumble across and they do not mind leaving a mess behind. It is important to understand why bears do eat pumpkins and how you can keep them away from your own pumpkins. 

Why Do Bears Eat Pumpkins?

Bears eat pumpkins because they are hungry and during certain months of the year, food can be hard to find. Bears are more likely to eat food like pumpkins while they are stocking up on calories for hibernation.

When bears den during the coldest months of the year, they go into a hibernation state and their bodies rely on their fat reserves to survive. To prepare, bears eat extra food in the months leading up to this and often look in more populated areas for sustenance.

This is one reason bears seem to look almost anywhere for some food, including front porches decorated for fall holidays and even pumpkin patches. While a pumpkin often serves as décor for us, it is still a very tasty vegetable that animals, including bears, enjoy.

Are Pumpkins Safe For Bears to Eat?

Pumpkins are safe for bears to eat because they do not contain anything that is considered toxic for bears. Pumpkins are simply winter squash plants or gourds that contain nutrients including water, vitamin A, and vitamin C.

They are safe for bears to break open, chew, and eat as they wish. Pumpkins may be a little thick and tough for humans to break into, but they are no match for a bear.

Do Bears Eat Whole Pumpkins?

Bears do eat whole pumpkins, after they break them open or bite into them, of course. A bear cannot eat a pumpkin whole, but it can chew up and eat a whole pumpkin in several bites.

Bears know that whole pumpkins are food, regardless of where we have put them or decorated them with. A hungry bear will have no issue eating a whole pumpkin.

carved pumpkins lined up in the yard

Do Bears Eat Carved Pumpkins?

Bears do eat carved pumpkins, however, they may steer clear of ones that have lights or burning candles inside of them. An empty carved pumpkin, with no bright and shiny frills, is simply an easy meal for a bear.

Carved pumpkins usually do not have tops, so it makes it easier for bears to break apart and eat. The downside is that they may be more difficult for bears to steal since their tops usually come right off.

Nonetheless, do not think that just because you carved the pumpkin that it will scare bears off. It may even have the opposite effect and make them more curious.

Do Bears Eat Rotten Pumpkins?

Bears do eat rotten pumpkins if they are hungry enough and the pumpkin is not too rotten. If a slightly rotten pumpkin is still easy to pick up and carry off, a bear will likely take it to eat.

If a pumpkin is so rotten that it cannot be moved, it is full of bugs or is just plain mush, an interested bear will probably opt not to eat it.

Signs That Bears Are Eating Your Pumpkins

There are several signs that could indicate that bears are eating your pumpkins. Here are the most common:

1. Your pumpkins keep disappearing

If you are repeatedly having to replace your fresh pumpkin décor in your front yard or porch, there is a chance that a bear could be stealing it. When bears take food like pumpkins from a human’s property, they seem to go for the grab-and-go approach. They steal it and eat it in the woods, away from sight.

2. There are smashed pumpkin remnants left behind

Seeing a smashed pumpkin in your yard is a clear indication that some animal, most likely a large animal like a bear, is eating or trying to eat your pumpkins.

3. You see bear prints near the scene of the incident

Bears paw prints are pretty big, often the same size as or much bigger than the size of your hand. They have five toes with claws on each.

ripe pumpkin plant ready for harvest

Do Bears Eat The Pumpkin Plant?

Bears can and do eat the pumpkin plant, but not regularly. The pumpkins themselves are far more delectable than the plants, so usually bears stick to them.

Pumpkin plants are safe for bears, so if that is all they have to eat, bears will eat the pumpkin plant in a pinch, although it is unlikely.

How To Stop Bears From Eating Your Pumpkins

There are a number of ways that you can stop bears from eating your pumpkins. Some people suggest only putting pumpkins out on the night of Halloween instead of the whole month to limit accessibility.

  • Get a guard dog for your property. A well-trained guard dog can often keep a bear at a distance with just its smell and even more so with its barking.
  • Install an electric fence surrounding your property. If a bear is repeatedly stealing pumpkins from your yard or porch, an electric fence may be the best, however most costly, solution.
  • Install a bright motion sensor light on your porch or in the yard. One of the easiest options is to install a bright motion sensor light on your porch or near the scene of the pumpkin theft. Bright lights are known to deter some wildlife, including bears.
  • Put candles or lights inside your pumpkin. Placing a light of some kind inside the pumpkin is another good way to deter bears from eating them. The light inside will confuse them and may even make the pumpkin not look like an edible pumpkin anymore.
  • Switch to plastic pumpkins in place of real ones. If the bear or bears have learned that your pumpkins are easy to steal, they will continue to steal them. Plastic pumpkins solve any of your bear-pumpkin problems and they are easier to manage.

What Kinds Of Pumpkins Do Bears Eat?

Bears are not very picky and they will eat almost any kind of pumpkin that they can find. There are all kinds of bear-friendly pumpkins including crookneck pumpkins, Cucurbita maximas, Cucurbita argyrosperma, and field pumpkins.

The most common bear-friendly pumpkin is of course the field pumpkin, the orange ones we all know and love. These are the pumpkins that are grown in abundance each year and bears get to eat a lot of them.

Can I Toss Out Old Pumpkins for Bears?

You should never intentionally toss out old pumpkins or any food for bears or other wild animals to eat.

This teaches them and additional wild animals to not only eat these items, but it brings them unnecessarily close to humans in general and to your residence.

Final Thoughts

Bears do eat pumpkins, although not all the time. It may not be a typical food in their diet, but it is a part of their food options, especially during the holidays.

There are several ways to detect pumpkin-thieving bears and prevent them from stealing your pumpkins.


Learning about bears and whether they eat pumpkins or not is a truly enlightening experience. These are the sources that I used to write this article.

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