Bears, hibernation and bear dens

Not all bears have entered their dens. Some bears are still active, especially in milder climates. Watch for tracks in the snow or mud.  What are bear dens? Bears adapt to reduced food availability by sleeping away the winter in dens which are often located in the hollow trunks of trees or under windfalls. Bears will dig the cavity, often at a downward angle, with an entrance just big enough for them to squeeze through. They line the cavity with insulating materials. Black bear cubs of the year will return with their female parent to overwinter together once more. In the second year, the black bear cubs will disperse and lead mostly solitary lives until they themselves are mature enough to mate. With grizzly bears, the cubs will overwinter an additional season. This can lead to cramped quarters when the male offspring are as large, if not larger, than the female parent! Grizzly dens are often at higher elevations and may be dug straight into a hillside. Snow that covers the den helps insulate the bears and conserve energy.

Photo courtesy of Louise Williams

When do bears hibernate?

It varies by climate and food availability but generally occurs from late October in the northern parts of the province to early December in the mildest of climates. Remember, bears hibernate as an adaptation to reduced food availability. If bears are accustomed to accessing human sources of food, they may delay hibernation.

Hibernation,Torpor or Denning?

There is some debate as to whether which term is the best, but the reality is that bears undergo an amazing process that is impossible for humans. They go months without eating, drinking, urinating or defecating. They are able to recycle their waste products and do not lose bone mass. Their respiration and heart rates slow and their body temperature goes down slightly. Despite this slower metabolism, they still lose up to 30% of their body mass, mostly fat. Because a bear does not go into deep hibernation, they can still be roused. That is why some will suggest the more appropriate term is torpor – another fascinating mechanism many animals use to conserve energy. Some animals go in and out of torpor on a daily basis.

Bear sightings still reported on Mt Klaur and Canyon Trail in Fernie.

Thank you for keeping your garbage carts indoors between collection days to prevent bears from breaking into them.  Photographed below is a cart from Invermere, the same ones we have in Fernie.  It was left outdoors and a bear broke into it.  Excess garbage can be taken to the transfer station or the community dumpsters between collection days.  Thank you to everyone who is helping keep wildlife wild.

Garbage cart broken into by a bear. This cart from Invermere is the same we have in Fernie.

Trick or treaters reported encountering a bear and bears accessing garbage left outdoors over the weekend in Fernie

Trick or treaters encountered a bear in the annex on Halloween night, fortunately our kids are well versed in responding to bear encounters. They stayed calm and backed away slowly.

Bears were reported accessing garbage left outdoors in West Fernie and there were reports of garbage placed on the curb the night before in Alpine Trail last week. Bears are still around, thanks for helping keep families safe and bears wild.

Bears searching for easy food sources in communities throughout the province.

Black bears are still very active in much of the province. This is a critical time of year when natural foods begin to wane and bears are preparing for winter denning. They may be consuming an average of 20,000 calories per day to put on the fat they need to survive over the winter. Bears lose about 30% of their body weight over winter and do not eat, drink or defecate while denning. Ensure that bears are not learning to find unnatural foods in your community. This can lead to food-conditioning, a learned behaviour where bears associate people with food. Keep your garbage secure. The red bears in this map denote bears that were accessing garbage. Also, avoid the temptation to put your bird feeder up too soon. Check out WildSafeBC’s Wildlife Alert Reporting Program to sign up for free alerts in your community: https://wildsafebc.com/programs/what-is-warp/

Grizzly bears reported in Grassmere and Sparwood and black bears all over Fernie and Elko

October 9th.  There have been grizzly and black bears reported throughout the Elk Valley and South Country. 

Sparwood:  grizzly bear feeding on a carcass on lower Elk Valley road by Whispering Pines MHP.

Grassmere:  grizzly and cub accessing fruit trees and causing property damage

Elko:  black bear reported clawing at a window ay a home on Combi Street

Fernie:  black bears reported all over town feeding on apple trees in back yards, getting into garbage left outdoors between collection days and travelling through parks in broad daylight.

We live in bear country, thank you for preventing human/wildlife conflict at home, in our parks, trails and in the back country.