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Bears waking up from hibernation in Northwest Montana; how to be prepared

Grizzly Bear or Black Bear
Posted at 2:29 PM, Mar 14, 2023

KALISPELL - As the snow begins to melt, bears are coming out of hibernation so now is an important time to "Be Bear Aware".

Bears typically hibernate from November through March or April and wake up hungry.

Although it is commonly referred to as "hibernation," some biologists actually use the word "torpor" to more precisely describe the behavior of bears during the colder months.

The National Forest Foundation explains:

Many animals once thought to hibernate, including bears, really only enter a lighter sleep-state called torpor. Torpor involves decreased breathing and heart rates, and lower metabolic rate. A bear’s body temperature reduces slightly.

Unlike hibernation, torpor is not voluntary and often lasts for shorter periods of time. During their active period of the day, animals in torpor maintain a normal body temperature, breathing and heart rate. But while they are inactive, they enter into a deeper than normal sleep that allows them to conserve energy and survive the winter.

The main difference between hibernation and torpor is during torpor, the animal is able to wake up quickly to avoid danger, or if the opportunity exists exit the den to feed.

    Whether you are out recreating in the increasingly nice weather, or just trying to keep bears away from your home, here are some reminders of how to "Be Bear Aware".
    When recreating:

    • Stay alert 
    • Travel in groups 
    • Make noise to avoid startling a bear 
    • Always carry bear spray 

    At home:

    • Store garbage in bearproof containers or in a secure building 
    • Prepare vulnerable livestock by reinforcing enclosures or using electric fences 
    • Use motion activated lights 
    • Pick fruit from trees as soon as it ripens 
    • And be cautious with things that smell like food such as pet food, bird feeders and barbeques 

    Additional information about how to "Be Bear Aware" can be found at https://fwp.mt.gov/conservation/wildlife-management/bear/be-bear-aware.