Attention Bear Baiters:
Avoid Using Chocolate as Bait
Chocolate contains the ingredient theobromine that can, at high doses, be toxic to bears and other species that consume bait.
Concerns have been raised in recent years regarding the use of chocolate as bear bait. These concerns stem from the fact that chocolate contains the ingredient theobromine that can, at high doses, be toxic to bears and other species that consume bait. Theobromine poisoning of black bear cubs and raccoons has been documented in Michigan and Pennsylvania. Additionally, it is assumed that other mammals may be susceptible to chocolate toxicosis if enough of the material is ingested. While theobromine poisoning has been studied and documented in wild and domestic dogs, cats, rodents and humans, per-pound toxicity levels for bears and other wildlife species remain unknown at this time.
Types of Chocolate Differ in Toxicity
The type of chocolate used as bait is an important factor as the concentration of theobromine varies considerably between types. The concentration of theobromine is a significant factor because it heavily influences the quantity of chocolate that can be consumed before toxicosis occurs. Unsweetened baker’s chocolate has the highest concentration of theobromine, followed by dark chocolate and milk chocolate. The size of the animal ingesting the chocolate is also an important factor. Smaller animals are more susceptible to poisoning compared to larger animals, because they do not have to eat as much to be impacted. This helps explains why all documented cases of chocolate poisoning of wildlife have been in animals that were small in body size (e.g., bear cubs, raccoons).
Avoid Risking Wildlife Health
Because incidents of chocolate-related mortality are rare, and because unanswered questions remain regarding the dosing levels necessary to be toxic to bears and other wildlife, Fish and Game does not support regulations pertaining to the use of chocolate as bait at this time. However, hunters are encouraged to avoid using chocolate as bait. While lethal dose rates vary by individual animal and species, the most effective way to avoid exposing wildlife to lethal levels of theobromine is to not use chocolate as bait. If using some chocolate is unavoidable, baiters can minimize potential impacts by using only milk chocolate and avoiding dark or baker’s chocolate. Hunters who may already have chocolate that they plan to use as bait should consider only using a little at a time to prevent animals from ingesting a lethal quantity. Thank you in advance for your consideration of this issue.