What to know about bears coming out of hibernation

Now that spring is here, bears are coming out of their dens to look for food.

  • Apr. 29, 2017 6:00 a.m.

Now that spring has sprung, flowers are blooming, grass is growing, and bears are coming out of hibernation.

Bears typically come out of hibernation in late April/early May, so they are on schedule for coming out of their dens, but they might not fully come out.

“Toward the end of the denning period they may get up and go for a short walk and then come back and go to sleep for another week or two and then get up for good,” said Frank Ritcey, a provincial coordinator with WildSafe BC. “When they come out of hibernation they’re going to come out and stretch and they’re going to get some water. While they’re going to eat, they’re not going to gorge themselves because their stomachs aren’t used to it.”

Bears will have plenty to eat right now.

When they first start coming out of their dens, bears will mainly feed on grass, dandelions, and fresh shoots. Because of the longer winter there has been more moisture on the ground, enabling more grass to grow.

While grass is primarily what they feed on right now, if a bear somehow wanders into town, and smells something like garbage, they’ll go for it, or seed from bird feeders, which has a lot of calories, making it a fast fix for the bear.

In order to prevent this from happening, residents are asked to minimize or take away any attractants a bear might be drawn to. Keep garbage secure until the day of pickup, take bird feeders down, and feed any pets indoors.

“I always say if you’re walking along and you saw $20 under a bench at a bus stop, every time you would go by that bench you would check again to see if somebody else had dropped $20,” said Ritcey. “It’s the same for bears. If they get a reward of food when they go past a person’s yard, they’re going to go back there again and again in the off chance they’re going to get a reward again. The best thing is to make sure they never get that first reward.”

Another thing to be careful of is potential bear sightings on the highway.

If you see a bear feeding near the highway, do not get out of the car to take a picture. Ritcey said this should be standard knowledge, but the amount of people who actually do this is amazing.

“Bears are pretty tolerant,” he concluded. “But at some point people cross the line and they get too close to the bear, and the bear gets scared and acts defensively to chase the person away, and that’s when problems happen.”