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Bears in Yosemite - Photo by Lindsay Kaun via Yosemite Conservancy

Be Prepared as Bears Emerge From Hibernation

The US Forest Service is reminding visitors to the the Sierra National Forest and locals who live near to be aware and prepared as bears emerge from hibernation

Clovis, CA., – The Sierra National Forest (SNF) provides important habitat to black bears and other wildlife. It is important to always be “Bear Aware” and wary.

Bears in Yosemite from Black Bears Nature Notes

Learning about bears helps you become a more knowledgeable visitor to the forest, keeping both you as well as the bears safe while sharing the woods.  As bears become more active it is important to be prepared, stay alert, and always practice attractant storage both at home and visiting public lands.

It is important to remove trash, animal remains and put away bird feeders before bears come looking for food sources near human habitation.  As people start to enjoy the warmer weather and get outside, remember all wildlife is doing the same.  Be especially cautious in areas where visibility is low, such as in thick brush or near water sources.

Remember bear spray is an effective deterrent for bears and other wildlife such as mountain lions.

Bears generally enter dens for hibernation from late October through early December. Pregnant females usually enter dens first, followed by females with young, subadults, and lastly adult males.

Male bears emerge first, usually beginning in March. Males den for 131 days on average, followed by lone females or females with older young. Females with newborn cubs are the last to emerge, usually from mid-April to early May. The cubs are born in the den around January, weigh less than a pound and are awake all winter in-order to nurse. In the spring, females with newborn cubs may remain near the den for several weeks after emergence before leaving the area.

Despite not eating for five months, bears aren’t ravenous when they emerge from hibernation. They undergo physiological changes after emerging adjusting from their time in a limited physiological state. Until their body temperature, heart rate and metabolism return to normal, they move slowly, scavenge and sometimes return to their dens.  As they search for food, they will often descend to lower elevations where carcasses and newly growing vegetation provide easier food sources.

Female bears with sub-adult cubs, usually 2 years of age displace their offspring to prepare for mating again in June.  It is often these sub-adult cubs who are unfamiliar with foraging on their own that will seek easy food sources and be unprepared for encounters with human beings.  However, any bear may be uncertain how to react to human presence, and take advantage of all the food to be found near people.

Black bears are especially adept at finding food near human areas since many people tend to believe them harmless.

If people allow bears to find food, trash, or other attractants near homes or campsites, they become habituated to people and may become aggressive and dangerous. It is important to apply all bear safety tips and remember to always respect and keep a safe distance from wild bears.

For good information on bear safety and food storage options while recreating on the Forest go to: https://wildlife.ca.gov/Keep-Me-Wild/Bear; https://www.fs.usda.gov/visit/know-before-you-go/bears; or https://nrm.dfg.ca.gov/FileHandler.ashx?DocumentID=57519&inline

For additional questions contact Theresa Lowe, Bear Education Specialist at theresa.lowe@usda.gov

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