An interesting fact about bears is that they don?t actually hibernate. Hibernating species experience a drop in body temperature to just above freezing and cannot be woken up. Bears on the other hand experience a small drop in body temperature (from 37°C to 35°C) but their entire system slows down; they will not defecate or urinate while in the den and they can wake up in a hurry. Just ask anyone in logging.
The necessity to den comes from the fact that bears are omnivores like us. They are not true predators like wolves or cougars and therefore would have great difficulty in sustaining themselves by hunting (in fact meat makes up about 10% of their diet), their digestive tract is much the same as ours and therefore they can?t eat coarse vegetation like deer or moose in the winter so the answer is denning. In fact, maybe I?ll give it a try this winter too. That way Mrs Bear Man won?t bug me about my weight.
Denning periods can really vary. Bears can spend from 2 to 7 months in the den, Some bears in the southern US will not den up at all given all the available food around. If the bear is underweight or sick, it likely won?t den. If, on the other hand, there is a lot of food around during the summer and they are feeling nice and fat, they may den up earlier; contrarily, if there isn?t a lot of food, they?ll stay up longer.
Speaking of getting fat, I had a really interesting bear call the other day to the Lion?s Campground. A sow and cub were at an empty camp site and refused to leave. The manager at the site called me and I arrived to find the sow digging at the gravel at the site. So I scratches me head and I think, ?what the heck?? Francis always keeps a really clean camp ground so something just doesn?t add up.
After the sow moved off with her cub, I discovered what the interest was: someone had poured out their cooking fat right onto the gravel. That scent was strong enough to attract the bears. Remember what I said about denning? They have to fatten up to survive the winter so anything (and I mean anything) that smells like food is fair game.
Which brings us back to the chorus:
Garbage – there are ONLY 3 possibilities: locked up inside, in a heavy duty shed/garage or in a bear-proof container. If you have really smelly stuff, try freezing it until garbage day. For bear proof containers, check the internet for a dealer and prices or talk to the local hardware store and see if they?ll bring some in.
Bird seed: empty them in spring and fill them in November. The birds don?t need seed in the summer and the bears go crazy for it. (If you want to see the most incredible photos of a bear climbing a rope horizontally to get at some seed 20 feet off the ground, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I?ll send you the photos).
Fruit Trees: I spoke about fruit trees in my last article. If you would like help disposing of trees or fruit give me a call.
Composting: no table scraps like meat or fish! Keep turning it so it won?t smell. It?s the scent that will attract a bear. Try odourless worm composting inside too.
Composting grass heaps on the ground: bears like the smell and bugs in the summer and the warmth on their bellies in the fall. Compost it properly or take it to the dump.
BBQs: burn them off after cooking, give them a scrape with a steel brush and cover them up with a tarp or cover to reduce the scent. That means fire pits too!
Pet food: if you feed pets outside, bring the bowls in after. Store pet food inside.
Petroleum products: some bears (like some humans) like the smell of gas. Store all petroleum products in a shed.
Be Bear Aware, it means safety for you, safety for the people next door and safety for the bears too. Let?s try and get along.
?Till next week, bear with me.