Outside Scoop: Bears in Hibernation
We’re coming upon true, colder weather, and not just leaves changing; we’re imagining feet of snow for the High Country, and it’s welcomed. And, during these intensely snowy and cold months, some of our favorite creatures in the Vail Valley take a snooze, a really long snooze, known as hibernation.
Here in Colorado, we have only one type of bear, the black bear, which can come in a variety of colors, from cinnamon to brown to black to blonde. Black bears have and do live in both the foothills and the forests of Colorado and have for centuries. Their routines are dependent upon seasonal queues, and right now is a very important time for the valley’s black bears.
Black bears will typically hibernate (remain in a dormant state, or in a sleep-like state where no food or liquid is consumed and the heart rate slows) beginning in mid-November and may remain in their bear dens, a place where they bed down for winter, until March or April. Male bears might be out eating a bit later in winter than females, who might be bedding down for the cold with cubs or possibly pregnant.
From now until bears go into hibernation, it’s time to eat, and that means thousands of calories a day. A typical human diet consists of anywhere from 1,200 to 2,400 calories a day, a black bear can intake up to 20,000 calories in a day during the feeding frenzy leading up to hibernation. The end of the bears gorging coincides with when food supplies begin to run low; it’s time for the den and a deep, deep sleep.
Black bear factoids
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Did you know that a bear’s nose is extremely more sensitive than our own, nearly hundredfold? Bears can smell food up to 5 miles away, and they are intelligent; they will remember where they got the food and likely return to find more.
Black bears are not typically active at night (or nocturnal), yet we seem to have most bear sightings at dawn and dusk. This is because black bears that live near humans have altered their routines and activity to avoid people.
Tips to keep Vail Valley’s bears safer during the feeding frenzy
•Don’t put out the trash until the morning of pickup day.
•Take in bird feeders at night.
•Don’t store pet food outdoors.
•Burn food off barbeque grills, and clean them after each use.
•Keep all bear-accessible windows and doors closed and locked, including home, garage and vehicle doors.
•Don’t leave food, trash or coolers in your vehicle.
Bear sightings in Vail
2019: 65 reported bear sightings in Vail residential areas.
2020: 148 reported bear sightings in Vail residential areas.
Were more people home to see the bears in 2020?