Bear Hibernation Timing
Name: Chris H.
We are vacationing near Breckenridge, Colorado, and we
wondered if the black bears are still hibernating. This area usually has
long, cold winters, but this year spring came early - as of March 23rd,
the high temperature here today will be in the mid-50's. Our question is
whether or not the bears will awaken earlier due the unusually warm
weather, or are they "programmed" to wake up around the same time each
year, regardless of the weather that year?
The answer is yes to both "programmed" and "weather dependent." Most
hibernating animals have a sort of internal clock that partly determines
length of hibernation, but most are also sensitive to unusual weather. Bears
are rather light sleepers, and might be more subject to weather influence
than some other animals. As for specific timing in Colorado, you should ask
a local wildlife expert - I am writing from Illinois!
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Update: June 2012