As winter sets in, black bears lay down to hibernate.
Rick Stronks, Algonquin Provincial Park’s chief naturalist, shares some interesting facts about these seasonal sleepers:
1. Black bears are masters of adaptation
Hibernation is their way of surviving a long winter when little food is available.
2. Black bears have few predators.
In fact, the biggest threat to their survival is hunger. Bears are shy animals. Even when awake, they try to avoid humans and spend half the year asleep, hiding in their dens.
3. Black bears are about the size of humans.
Females weigh, on average, between 100 and 150 pounds; males between 150-180. If the food supply is good, bears double in size during the summer, in preparation for hibernation.
4. Bears are solitary animals
The only time males and females come together is in June, when they mate.
Through a survival adaptation called “delayed implantation,” the embryo does not implant in the uterus until the fall, and then only whether the female has gained enough body fat to get through the winter months when she is hibernating.
5. Bears give birth before emerging from hibernation
In October or November, the female looks for a place to hibernate, usually under a stump or log, which it covers with grass, twigs and leaves. In January she gives birth, usually to one or two cubs. The pups nurse while she continues to periodically snooze, and by the time they all emerge in April or May, the pups have grown to weigh about five pounds each.
The cubs remain with their mother throughout the summer and hibernate with her during the winter. The following spring, she pushes them out of the den so they are alone.
6. Bears lose half their body fat while hibernating
When bears hibernate, their body temperature drops from 38 C to 33 C and their heart rate goes from 50 beats per minute to 10. They do not eat, drink, urinate or defecate.
Hibernating bears lose at least half of their body fat, but surprisingly, they don’t lose muscle mass or much calcium from their bones.
7. Bears rarely turn down a snack
Like most animals, bears are constantly searching for food and spend up to eight hours a day searching for food. They are mostly vegetarians and feed mainly on berries and nuts.
Black bears are poor hunters, although they do catch fish during spawning season, and if they can ambush a fawn or moose calf in the spring, they will do so.
We’ll say it again: 7. Bears rarely refuse a snack (even if it is in a tent or in a cooler)
When bears are attracted to cabins or campsites, it is because they are looking for food. And if they find it, they will return. Bears have excellent long-term memory, especially when it comes to where they found food in the past.
That’s why it’s so important for campers to keep their campsite clean and free of odors that attract wildlife.
If you have a vehicle, pack all your food in containers and store it in your trunk. This includes anything that has a smell, so pack toiletries and clothes you cooked in. In the field, hang your food at least 4 meters from the ground, on a branch 3 meters from the trunk.
Take garbage to the landfill regularly, and do not throw the water from your dishes in your place (The wastewater should be flushed into a vault toilet.) Do not forget Clean your picnic and/or barbecue table.