Watch a Black Bear Casually and Expertly Steal a Free Meal

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Written by Marisa Wilson

Updated: November 15, 2023

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Black Bears - bear with cubs
© Debbie Steinhausser/

Black bears are amazing creatures. They’re powerful, agile, and have a keen sense of smell. There are a lot of people who don’t know just how brilliant black bears can be. In fact, they’re so bright that they can learn to open dumpsters and raid trash cans for food.

Black bears have been known to memorize the locations of dozens of dumpsters and trash cans and often return to the same ones to steal some scraps. This remarkable memory allows them to find a meal, even in unfamiliar territory, quickly. In addition to their excellent memory, black bears are also great problem-solvers.

They have also been known to use objects such as logs to bash open garbage cans. While they aren’t capable of opening locked doors, they can open unlocked car doors. These impressive abilities make black bears one of the most intelligent animals in the world.

The black bear in the below video is no exception! Here in Mary Esther, Florida, you will see a black bear that has learned how to scavenge for food properly. The bear carefully approaches the green trash can and then begins wheeling it to the driveway’s edge.

Black bear walking

Black bears have a killer sense of smell, which leads them to food sources to satisfy their hunger.

©cs: User: DaBler, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons – License

Slowly the bear looks around to make sure someone isn’t going to try to stop him from taking his plunder. Once it gets to the edge of the driveway, it opens the lid and begins to look through the contents.

What is he looking for? Most bears love getting their paws on fresh meat, but leftovers are also a favorite. The entire time this bear’s mannerisms look like a proper thief. It sorts through the trash as a woman would search in a purse. You can see a shorter bear walk past the other to get a closer look.

The smaller bear is obviously very timid and doesn’t approach the other bear or the trash can full of food. The way the trashcan-digging bear acts is somehow civilized. It wouldn’t have been surprising if the bear took a napkin out to tie around his neck and started cutting the leftovers with a fork. No one told this sophisticated bear it was a bear, so it defaults to acting like a human.

Do Black Bears Normally Eat From Garbage Bins?

Black bears are omnivorous animals and are known to eat a wide variety of foods, including plants, insects, small mammals, and carrion. However, in recent years, there has been an increasing trend of black bears raiding garbage bins in residential areas. This has led to concerns about human-bear conflicts and calls for measures to prevent bears from accessing human food sources.

While it is not normal for black bears to rely on human food sources, they may be attracted to garbage bins and other human-related food sources if they are easily accessible and provide a reliable source of food. This is especially true in areas where natural food sources are scarce, such as during periods of drought or after a forest fire.

It is also important to note that feeding bears, intentionally or unintentionally, can lead to habituation, where bears become accustomed to human food sources and lose their fear of humans. This can lead to dangerous encounters between bears and humans, and ultimately put the bears at risk of being euthanized if they become too bold or aggressive.

Black bear at a garbage dump

It’s not normal for black bears to rely on human food sources but they may be attracted to accessible garbage and dumps.


Do Black Bears Normally Approach Houses?

Yes, they do. In spite of being rather fond of fresh meat, these bruins are also rather partial to all the stuff humans love to eat. They also find pet food especially enticing too. From their point of view, a random whiff of either is a sufficiently powerful incentive for them to brave the unknown and not only open bins but also attempt breaking and entry.

Sturdy doors with exterior lever handles and sturdy bars over windows can prevent bears from gaining access to your home or your garage.

All your car doors and windows must be closed and any items with strong scents or odors such as perfumes, air fresheners, or food, removed, to eliminate any possible temptation that these clever mammals may find hard to resist.

black bear visiting the garbage disposal

Sturdy bars over windows can prevent bears from gaining access to your home, even if they get into the trash.


The way that the bear in this video acts not only shows intelligence and resourcefulness but also patience and perseverance. It is a model of the black bear that we all like to imagine when we think of them. If you still don’t believe that black bears are one of the most intelligent animals on the planet, just watch this video. It will make you a believer.

These fantastic creatures have some pretty impressive skills and abilities. It is so rewarding to see them interact in cute and subtle ways, such as adequately wheeling a trashcan to enjoy lunch after a long day of being a bear. We hope you enjoyed learning about this black bear in the video as much as we did.

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About the Author

Creepy-crawly creatures enthrall Marisa. Aside from raising caterpillars, she has a collection of spiders as pets. The brown recluse is her favorite spider of all time. They're just misunderstood. You don't have to worry about squishing the creatures as her catching, and relocating abilities can safely move stray centipedes or snakes to a new location that's not your living room.

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