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Some Bears May Not Sleep Through Winter

November 30, 2006

SIERRA VISTA, Ariz. — Some southern Arizona black bears may not sleep through the hibernation season because they may not have gotten enough to eat beforehand, a wildlife official says.

It’s possible some bears around the Huachuca Mountains might be in a circumstance where they either would stay in the den and starve, or go back out and forage for food. Because of that, residents living near wilderness areas must stay aware and be careful with things that might attract bears.

“When you’re living down here in bear country, it’s a way of life in bear-proofing,” said local game warden John Millican. “It’s impossible for us to be at every canyon, day and night.”

Several residents around the Huachuca Mountains encountered bears this summer, likely because drought affected the vegetation that bears feed on in the mountains. As a result, bears in the Huachuca Mountains and elsewhere have had to scrounge more, relying heavily on human food.

Bears don’t hibernate in the sense that smaller mammals do, said Brian Wakeling, the state Game and Fish department’s big game supervisor. They do not sleep as soundly, and they are not considered to be in “true hibernation.”

“It’s extremely unlikely they will completely not hibernate,” Wakeling said.

But they might take longer to get started, trying to make sure they’ve eaten enough. “It’s certainly something that’s been the object of a lot of bear research over the years,” he said.

Information from: Sierra Vista Herald, http://www.svherald.com




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