Warm weather, robins and daffodils all herald the arrival of spring but groundhogs aren’t the only creatures coming out of their holes right now. Springtime signals the end of hibernation for bears and a marked increase in their activity.
Upon waking and exiting its den, a bear’s body mass is significantly lower than when it entered hibernation in the winter, but not as low as you may think. During hibernation bears do not eat or drink, nor do they pass any wastes. Their heart rate drops dramatically and kidney function stops all- together. Muscle and fat provide sustenance while waste by-products are recycled into new protein – hence why bears are not emaciated when they emerge.
However, this is not to say that they are not hungry! In the wild, bears will seek winter-killed carrion and new shoots on spring plants. Unfortunately, they will also follow their noses to particularly tempting urban areas. This is a crucial time of year to deter and prevent bears from becoming conditioned to non-natural food sources. One accessible garbage can, bird feeder, barbecue etc. could spell continued problems for the rest of the year for humans and bears alike.
Consideration must also be taken for future generations of bears. Females will most likely be exiting their dens with cubs that will be learning all of their mother’s behaviours and habits including where and how to forage for food. These young bears will learn quickly and natural, wild behaviour is the goal rather than generations of “urban food-conditioned bears”. It takes a village to raise a child, and this situation is no different. We all carry a responsibility to ensure healthy, wild populations of bears for years to come.
Proactive measures now will be reflected in fewer human-bear conflicts in the months ahead including reduced property damage, increase to public safety and a decrease in the destruction of bears. These measures include but are not limited to properly managing attractants on your property, reporting neighbourhood bear sightings to the Conservation Officer Service, alerting your neighbours to bear activity and maintaining a healthy attitude that these are wild animals that deserve our respect.
To report any wildlife-human interactions where public safety may be at risk, call the Conservation Officer Service at 1-877-952-RAPP (7277).
Information provided by Bear Smart BC Society. For more information on the Ministry of Environment Bear Smart Community Program or the Bear Smart BC Society call: Crystal McMillan at 250-650-9653.