British Columbia

Bear hibernation could be ending much earlier this year

WildSafeBC says bears could be ending their hibernation much earlier this year. That's a problem, because there probably won't be enough food for them in the wild.

WildSafeBC says hot, dry summer last year means bears couldn't build up body fat as much as normal

Black bears typically emerge from hibernation between March and May, but in B.C., the conservation service has already had 130 calls about bears, according to WildSafeBC. (Canadian Press)

Bear biologists in B.C. are seeing bears waking from hibernation earlier than usual, which puts them in danger of not finding enough food when they wake up.

Frank Ritcey, provincial coordinator of WildSafeBC, says the conservation service has already had 130 calls about bears throughout the province, but it's too early to tell if there will be real problems until the bulk of the bears wake up.

"I think this year, by March, we'll see an increase in bear activity over last year, and I think that's partly because the bears went to bed a bit hungrier last fall than normal because of that long, hot, dry summer we had," Ritcey told Daybreak South host Chris Walker.

Ritcey says the cause of bears waking up isn't fully understood, but has to do a lot with how much fat they've built up in the fall, which they live off while hibernating. When bears run out of fat, they wake up.

The problem is, when they wake up early, there probably won't be enough food for them in the wild, Ritcey says.

"So what they do is come into to town looking for garbage and the like," he said. "So it's important that people be vigilant at this time of year and keep their garbage in until the time of collection."

Ritcey says a wet spring would be the best-case scenario, because that would lead to lots of grass growth, which is what the bears want to eat when they emerge from hibernation.

To hear the full story, click the audio labelled: Wakey, wakey: hibernating bears could be waking up months earlier than usual