Mild winter may wake Sierra bears early

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LAKE TAHOE, Nev. (KOLO) According to the calendar, the Sierra's bears should be hibernating now.

(Photo Source: Pixabay / MGN)

To most everyone's disappointment, this hasn't been the winter we hoped for. The snowpack is slim and last week's temperatures signaled spring.

Skiers may not be ready to give up on this season, but bears just might. As we all know they should be quietly hibernating right now, but that may not continue.

There are a couple reasons they may wake up. The first is this winter. It's not a matter of temperature, but....

"If there's snow on the ground they will hibernate," says Nevada Department of Wildlife spokesman Zac Campbell. "If there isn't a lot of snow they're able to forage and they will come out, walk around and eat."

The other reason they could cut their winter slumber short is us.

"Their sense of smell is amazing. So if there's food available sometimes they won't even hibernate. That happens in the urban areas where people supply the food."

And a lack of snow leaves some natural sources of food uncovered; the food we supply by not securing our garbage, pantries and homes, well, we've seen that result.

"Living in a bear habitat is a year-round responsibility for people who own homes," says Campbell. "It's our responsibility and we all have the best interests in mind for the bears. They will always choose to eat over sleep. So if there's food to eat they will come out of hibernation to take advantage of that opportunity to eat."