Ronnie Chua / Getty Images

But humans are to blame for their bad eating habits.

July 14, 2017

Humans aren't the only mammals to get cravings for potato chips. A recent study shows that bears (or at least the bears of Wisconsin) get hankerings for popcorn, pretzels, cookies, and other junk foods, just like we do—if not even more often.

Researchers with the University of Wisconsin, Madison analyzed the diets of more than 100 bears who had been killed by hunters in the northwest region of the state from 2011 to 2013 by measuring chemicals in the bears' hair, blood, and bones.

The chemicals told the researchers how much meat, plants, and bait—food hunters leave out to lure bears during hunting seasons, which is usually junk food—that the bears had eaten. And they soon found that about 40 percent of the bears' diet came from bait, not just in the years they had been hunted but over their lives, telling the researchers the bears went in search of junk food even when it wasn't made readily available to them. In other words, they say, these bears got cravings for chips, too.

In Wisconsin, hunters can feed bears bait for six months out of the year. And bait is most often junk food because, in the state, hunters aren't allowed to use animals or animal byproducts to capture the bears. Junk food is an inexpensive option for them.

The idea of bears craving a package of Oreos or a box of doughnuts may be amusing, but it's actually a big problem, the researcher say. "We postulate that this subsidization is contributing to the high bear population density in the state," they wrote in their study, continuing that in order to reduce the bears' presence in, you know, people's backyards—or keep them from attacking doughnut cars, as this bear with a sweet tooth did this summer—hunters might want to lay off feeding them Lays potato chips.