Black bears prep for hibernation

Columnist Roseanne Van Ee continues her look at black bears

Black bears prep for hibernation

Bears don’t fully hibernate like chipmunks.

Instead, they spend winter in a deep sleep; their heartbeat slows but their body temperature drops only slightly.

Bear dormancy is a little understood biochemical marvel. Biologists know that bears recycle their bodily wastes (urea) into proteins to prevent toxic buildup while maintaining muscle mass until spring.

Also, how sows can lactate, since they aren’t drinking any water, is still a mystery. It’s assumed their fat is metabolized to produce rich milk for their young.

Before hibernation, adult black bears weigh 100 to 300 kgs. They lose about 30 to 40 per cent of their body weight while hibernating and emerge from their dens voraciously hungry.

Thankfully, their favourite spring foods consist of nutritious bulbs and shoots, grass, flowers, insects and larvae. They may even dig up a few mouse or pocket gopher families.

They can gain up to 14 kgs/week from spring to fall by consuming up to 20,000 calories a day binging. About 85 per cent of their diet is vegetation.

READ MORE: SilverStar eastiest place to spot black bears

Adult black bears stand up to one metre on all fours and are 1.5 metre long, up to 2 metres high if standing on their hind legs to sniff the air for scents.

Bears have long, narrow tongues that can wrap around shrub branches to strip off leaves and berries by the mouth-full.

Their flexible lips can be manipulated with great dexterity.

Bears are fast short distance runners when necessary — up to 60 km/hr on the flat and even faster running downhill.

Black bears are also good climbers and swimmers.

B.C. is home to more than one-quarter of Canada’s black bears, numbering 120,000 to 150,000.

They generally live 15 to 20 years in the wild, but they can live up to 30 years or more.

Do not feed bears! A fed bear is a dead bear.

Besides legal hunting, about 950 or more black bears are destroyed in B.C. each year as a result of conflicts between people and bears mostly due to attraction to garbage.

Other common problem food sources include pet food, bird seed, ripe fruit, unattended compost piles and bee hives.

The B.C. Conservation Service spends more than $1 million each year responding to bear complaints, destroying and relocating bears.

About 150 bears are relocated annually, but they often return to trouble.

What to do if encountering a black bear: Black Bear encounter what-to-does:

• Usually meeting a bear is a surprise to both parties. They’ll usually take off, if not you should back off slowly, while talking to the bear. Do not run as this may startle the bear into a chase mode.

• Prevent surprises by learning about bears, watching out for fresh tracks and scats, staying out of probable bear areas such as ripe berry patches and by making noise when traveling through bear country (talking, singing or occasionally shouting while banging sticks or hiking poles is best). Be alert and always travel in groups.

• Female black bears will aggressively defend their young. They usually chase them up a tree and stand guard below. Never climb a tree to avoid a bear encounter. Bears are good climbers.

Black bear attacks are very rare. If one is aggressively approaching, drop pack-sacks and move away without threatening or further arousing the bear — it’s usually a bluff.

If attacked, use bear spray. The situation will dictate whether to retreat or fight off the bear.

For more information about bears, BC Parks, the BC Bear Smart program and WildSafeBC have great online websites on bears and bear safety.

Roseanne Van Ee enthusiastically shares her knowledge of the outdoors to help readers experience and enjoy nature

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Vernon RCMP volunteers conducting marine vessel pre-checks at Paddlewheel Park in 2020. (City of Vernon)
Vernon volunteers are ‘awe-inspiring’: Mayor

City, mayor celebrate volunteers in National Volunteer Week

Waterfront owners on Kalamalka Lake might want to check their docks, as one was spotted floating around the Oyama end of the lake Thursday, April 22. (Nick Clements photo)
‘Anyone lose a dock?’ in Vernon or Lake Country

Wooden structure spotted at south end of Kalamalka Lake

A screen capture from Chris “Sky” Saccoccia’s Twitch live stream of his rally in Kelowna’s Stuart Park on April 22, 2021. (therealchrisskytv/Twitch.tv)
Anti-mask activist Chris Sky descends on Kelowna, incites violation of COVID-19 health orders

The appearance is part of Chris “Sky” Saccoccia’s ‘Freedom Convoy’ that is currently travelling cross-country

Vernon RCMP are seeking the public’s help in identifying a man who allegedly pointed a firearm at two people outside a downtown business Saturday, April 10, 2021. (Contributed)
Man who brandished firearm in downtown Vernon sought by police

Video surveillance image shows man pointing what investigators believe to be a handgun April 10

Kimberley case counts not at the point for 18 years and older community vaccination, says Interior Health. (File photo)
Many factors considered for smaller community-wide vaccination: Interior Health

East Kootenay resort town’s COVID-19 situation not at the point of community-wide vaccination, say officials

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and United States President Joe Biden smile as they say farewell following a virtual joint statement in Ottawa, Tuesday, February 23, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Trudeau pledges to cut emissions by 40% to 45% by 2030, short of U.S. goal

Trudeau announced target during a virtual climate summit convened by U.S. President Joe Biden

BC Wildfire Service
Small wildfire ignites in the Shuswap

The blaze is about 10 km east of the Squilax Bridge

Gavel (Courtesy photo)
EDITORIAL: High marks for Canada’s democratic process

Accusations of widespread corruption do not hold up

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will issue an apology for Canada’s treatment of Itaian-Canadians during the Second World War. (CPAC)
COLUMN: Apologizing for an uncomfortable wartime decision

Canada’s government will apologize for its treatment of Italian-Canadians during the Second World War

MLA Shirley Bond, right, answers questions during a press conference at Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on February 19, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Former B.C. gaming minister says she wasn’t told directly about dirty cash flowing to casinos

Shirley Bond said Thursday civil forfeiture, gang violence and gambling addiction were also major concerns in 2011

RauDZ pop-up patio located on Pandosy Street in front of The Okanagan Table. (Contributed: Audrey Surrao)
Kelowna restaurant gets creative to adjust to new health orders

The owners of RauDZ Regional Table open ‘pop-up patio’ to adjust to health order banning indoor dining

RCMP Constable Etsell speaks to tourists leaving the area at a police roadblock on Westside Road south of Fintry, B.C., Thursday, July 23, 2009. THE CANADIAN PRESS/ Yvonne Berg
B.C. police say they take ‘exception’ to conducting roadblocks limiting travel

Asking the police to enforce roadblocks exposes officers to further risk and possible COVID-19 infections, says federation president Brian Sauve

As part of the province’s strategy to combat the opioid overdose crisis, take-home naloxone kits have been distributed throughout the province. (Courtesy of Gaëlle Nicolussi)
Vancouver Island could be at its worst point of overdose crises yet: medical health officer

Island Health issued overdose advisories for Victoria, various communities in the last two weeks

BC Hydro released a survey Thursday, April 22. It found that many British Columbians are unintentionally contributing to climate change with their yard maintenance choices. (Pixabay)
Spend a lot of time doing yard work? It might be contributing to climate change

Recent BC Hydro survey finds 60% of homeowners still use gas-powered lawnmowers and yard equipment

Most Read