Bears typically hibernate during the winter months when food is scarce, and temperatures are low. When the weather begins to warm, they emerge from their dens to scavenge for resources. CBS News is reporting that this year, native black bears have been spotted out and about in early March, which is almost a month earlier than usual.
The United States has had an unusually warm winter this year, which the article says has altered the way many animals behave. Climate change has led to unnatural temperatures that gravely affect ecosystems and wildlife.
One of the biggest dangers of bears prematurely ending their hibernation period is the impact it may have on humans. Part of the reason that they hibernate is to wait for their food sources to replenish. Now, the animals are adapting to the warmer weather faster than the resources they depend on, which means their nutritional sources are not readily available, leaving them desperate to find different things to eat.
Jim Knox, a curator of education at Connecticut’s Beardsley Zoo, spoke with CBS News about the potentially harmful side effects of bears ending their hibernation early.
“Bears are resourceful and will then seek human food sources like pet food or bird seed they can access, entering storage sheds, garages and porches — which puts them into conflict with people,” he said.
While bear attacks are uncommon, the numbers could potentially rise if bears are entering suburbs and residential areas to find food. A situation like that could lead to more bears being put down by animal control, says the article.
CBS News also reports that anomalies in bear behavior are also occurring in other countries outside the United States. The Moscow Zoo told the outlet that two Himalayan black bears and one brown bear woke up one month before they were expected to.
“Our zoologists were preparing for the fact that because of the abnormally warm winter, bears will wake up earlier. Therefore, in February, experts monitored animals around the clock, and after their awakening, they began to prepare animals for walks in the outdoor aviary,” said the Moscow Zoo general director.
Zookeepers will be able to transition to the bears back to their customary diets slowly, but in the wild, the animals will have to fend for themselves.
Jeff Berardelli, the climate specialist at CBS News, commented that bears waking up earlier was yet another “canary in the coal mine” and “a sign of how humans are becoming a force of nature, unintentionally manipulating nature’s natural cycles.”
The Inquisitr previously reported that polar bears were becoming thinner and having fewer cubs due to the alarming rate at which sea ice is melting in the Arctic.