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Black Bears Still Active

12-27-13  black bear tracks by GinnyFinding Black Bear tracks in late December shouldn’t come as a surprise, but it often does if you’re unaware of the true timing of hibernation. Most of us assume Black Bears are fast asleep by November, but entrance into hibernation is usually considerably later than this. According to Ben Kilham, a New Hampshire bear biologist , pregnant female black bears den first, around the middle of December, followed by unbred females in late December. Males stay active as long as there is a supply of food available and the weather isn’t too severe. Young males remaining active the longest, often into January, in order to put on as much weight as possible in order to compete with older males the following spring. Occasionally when a winter is particularly mild, and it’s a good year for mast crops such as acorns or beechnuts, you hear or see signs of Black Bear through the winter, but this is the exception rather than the rule. (Photo by Ginny Barlow – Black Bear hind foot on left, front foot on right.)

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5 responses

  1. I have encountered fresh-looking bear tracks more than once when sledding with my dogs in remote areas on warmer days in winter. I try to make a lot of noise on those trips, hoping to not come around a bend and find the bear in the trail! These tracks are missing the “claw drag” that I usually saw with the pad imprints in the snow.

    December 30, 2013 at 10:29 pm

  2. Great info – always wondered about when they go into hibernation. Like clockwork though there is one that hits our feeder the first week of April every year. You would think by now that I’d pull the feeders by April first, but I’m an April fool!

    December 31, 2013 at 1:33 am

  3. AJ

    Good info – many think that bears den up when it gets cold and never cone out ’til spring. Every year there are so many folks expressing concern about seeing bear tracks during winter more months!

    December 31, 2013 at 11:17 pm

  4. Doreen Casey

    Dear Mary,
    I have been following your work since i first heard of you. You are the MOST incredible naturalist i have ever read, and I love your work. I have your book, Naturally curious, and follow your writing. I am also an outdoors person, and truly value you. Thank you, Doreen from Bethel, Me.

    January 23, 2014 at 5:05 pm

    • Thank you so much for those very kind thoughts and words, Doreen. I really just have the luxury of being able to spend a lot of time outdoors — and the desire to share what I find with others, such as yourself. So glad you’re enjoying the blog! Mary

      January 23, 2014 at 6:13 pm

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