As temperature drops, days become shorter, natural food becomes scarce and snow starts to fall, bears move on to find a den for the winter. Hibernation is a way for bears to conserve energy in the winter when food is in low supply. Most black bears and grizzly bears den for four to six months. However, bears do not go into true hibernation because their body temperature and metabolic rate do not decrease as much as in other hibernating species and they may wake up relatively easily during their winter sleep.
In order to survive without eating, bears must slow down their physiological systems and live off their fat reserves. They actually enter a state of dormancy where: their heart rate drops from 40-70 beats per minute to 8-12 beats per minute, their metabolism slows down by half and their body temperatures by drop by 3-7 degrees Celsius.
While bears do not eat or drink during this time, they do not urinate or defecate either. Such a build-up of urea would cause humans to die. Bears have a unique ability to recycle the build-up or urea, using it to manufacture new proteins. During hibernation, the bear’s body essentially enters a mode of conservation, efficiency and recycling.
The WildSafeBC program will be going into hibernation until the spring. WildSafeBC is grateful for the generous support the program receives from sponsors, partners and volunteers. Thanks to our sponsors: Ministry of Environment, Columbia Basin Trust, British Columbia Conservation Foundation, the City of Fernie, the District of Elkford and the R.D.E.K. Community partners have provided invaluable support and guidance. Thank you to: the Conservation Officer Service, the Free Press, Elk Valley Herald, The Drive 99.1, Wildsight, Fernie Trails Alliance, Tourism Fernie, Fernie Alpine Resort, Island Lake Lodge, and the Fernie Chamber of Commerce. Finally, thank you to our volunteers and all the residents who made an effort this season to remove wildlife attractants from their properties. Let’s keep wildlife wild and our community safe!