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Bears need personal space as they prepare for winter, says B.C. wildlife advocate

Spring and summer weather affecting black bear hibernation schedule
A black bear lumbers along the banks of the Sooke River. A wildlife advocate says that weather impacts bears’ behaviour because it affects their food source. (Contributed - Gary Schroyen)

Bear behaviour is being disrupted by changes in spring and summer weather conditions.

“It’s been an odd year as far as the weather goes,” said Sam Webb, program coordinator for Wild Wise, a Vancouver Island-based volunteer organization that teaches people how to co-exist with wildlife through education.

“Weather definitely impacts bears’ behaviour because it affects their food.”

Since this spring was unseasonably cold, fewer plants were available. The salmon spawning season was delayed due to drought, so bears had to find food elsewhere, such as in unsecured garbage containers.

The reduction in rainfall affected more than plants and berries, Webb said.

“Since the rain wasn’t as heavy this year and the Sooke River’s not as high, it means people are getting closer to bears that are fishing,” she said. “That’s dangerous for people walking their dogs and disturbing the bears trying to eat.”

Wild Wise volunteers have been going to popular outdoor hotspots every weekend to pass out information on the need to respect wildlife.

“A lot of people don’t understand that bears don’t hibernate because the weather’s cold. They hibernate due to a lack of food,” Webb said.

“Unfortunately, the period we’re in right now, hyperphagia, is when bears have an extreme drive to consume as much food as possible. That’s why securing garbage is extremely important, especially at this time of the year, so bears will go into hibernation when their natural food sources dry up.”

For more information on how to co-exist peacefully with wildlife, please visit

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About the Author: Rick Stiebel

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