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Climate change could shorten bear hibernation periods, lead to more human interactions

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In the High Sierra, bear encounters are expected.

But several bear sightings have been reported in more urban Northern California landscapes this year.

According to bear behavior experts, there are a couple of reasons why this may be happening and both are related to factors that drive a bear’s hibernation instinct.

“Hibernation is a response to food shortage,” said Heather Johnson, an animal research biologist with the USGS Alaska Science Center.

When a bear’s main natural food source — think berries, nuts and insects — becomes scarce, bears know it’s time to rest and conserve energy.

But as human territory increasingly intersects with bear territory, bears learn that human food sources can be a good backup calorie supply.”Bears that have access to more food, whether it be natural food or human food will postpone their hibernation and basically just keep eating,” Johnson said. Recommended Some Electra Fire evacuation orders downgraded in Amador County, as containment grows And the less bears hibernate, the better chance a human will see one out, especially if a bear has become dependent on human food.Some years, weather events can contribute to a bear’s lack of natural food. One example is a late spring frost that kills off vegetation that […]

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