View Full Version : Bear free season in the South?

05-26-2016, 03:34

Do the bears in the southern highlands still hibernate like they used to? I think I read somewhere that some of the bears in GSM National Park seem to be giving it up; that instead of sleeping through the winter as of old, they are now staying awake and digging in the garbage all year round. I don't remember if this was isolated behavior from a few rogue individuals, or something of a general trend. If the bears do hibernate, at what time of year do they stay in their dens..? Many thanks...


05-26-2016, 06:13
Bears in the south don't hibernate.....less active during winter to conserve energy but don't den up like grizzlies do. Even with the very few isolated incidents no reason to fear them....just like sharks....they demand your respect....just my $.02......

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05-26-2016, 08:53
Salty is right. I've talked to park rangers in GSMNP and done some reading on the subject and basically they do find a den but they don't truly hibernate. I have seen bears in Cades Cove in December and January. Sightings are more rare but they do occasionally lumber about during the winter.

Uncle Joe
05-26-2016, 09:10
That said, Winter would probably be a less active time for them and a better time for scuttling through the park if you're concerned.

05-26-2016, 09:18
I'd worry more about the 2 legged idiots out there not bears!! That's the reason I love winter treks.....less idiots!

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05-26-2016, 09:23
I'd worry more about the 2 legged idiots out there not bears!! That's the reason I love winter treks.....less idiots!

+1. While you need to be careful to keep them being habituated to human food, they are far from the scariest thing out there.

Pedaling Fool
05-26-2016, 09:40
The bears in GSMNP do hibernate; however, there is some debate on the true definition of the term hibernate and some still call what bears do as Torpor. Whatever you call it, they still do it the same as they've always have, nothing different -- see here: http://www.bear.org/website/bear-pages/black-bear/hibernation.html

Do black bears hibernate?

Short answer: yes.
When people defined hibernation simply in terms of temperature reduction, bears were not considered hibernators. However, when biologists discovered the many metabolic changes that let black and grizzly bears hibernate up to 7 months without eating, drinking, urinating, or defecating, they realized that body temperature was only a small part of hibernation.

They redefined mammalian hibernation as a specialized, seasonal reduction in metabolism concurrent with scarce food and cold weather (Watts et al. 1981).

Black bears are now considered highly efficient hibernators.

The thing about bear's form of hibernation, and just another thing that separates them from other hibernators is that they are "light sleepers", meaning they are easily woken from their slumber. If it's particularly warm they will roam around periodically, but in the highlands of GSMNP, it's not too warm in the winter, tons of snow.

They also have different schedule than their counterparts in more northern regions. http://www.bear.org/website/bear-pages/black-bear/hibernation/191-5-stages-of-activity-and-hibernation.html

The activity schedule is very different in eastern North America where acorns, hickory nuts, beech nuts, and other foods become available in fall and some foods remain available all winter. Bears there are genetically programmed to delay hibernation until late November or December and hibernate less than 5 months. Hibernation there is typically not as deep, and some bears emerge to forage during winter thaws. Food sometimes remains available throughout winter there, and some bears continue foraging throughout winter.