Most people know that bears hibernate in the winter, but is there a possibility of seeing one in Montana when there is snow on the ground? Yourbigsky is determined to find out.
According to Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks, grizzly bears enter what is called torpor, which is similar to hibernation. During torpor, they enter a deep sleep but can easily wake up if disturbed. Bears create winter dens so they can sleep comfortably during the long winter. Major den excavation can be done in a matter of three days to a week.
While creating their winter den, bears can move up to a ton of materials. It consists of an entrance, a short tunnel, and a chamber with bedding material with air pockets that help trap body heat. Bears typically den for about five to six months, typically starting in November. They emerge from their dens during the spring, around March or April.
Montana grizzlies tend to create their den on 30-60 degree slopes with northern exposures and at least 6,000 feet in elevation. Female grizzlies typically give birth in their dens and do not eat, drink or eliminate waste for the five to six months they hibernate. When grizzlies are in torpor, their internal body temperature drops, and their heart and breathing rates are reduced significantly.
While encountering a bear in the winter is unlikely, that does not mean it could never happen. Those living in mountainous regions have a better chance of seeing a bear emerge from hibernation earlier than anticipated. According to Montana Gold Claims, bears are usually shy and avoidant around humans but can be aggressive before hibernation.
Bear safety is important during any season. If you encounter a bear, it is important never to run. The bears can run up to 50 yards in three seconds. If you ever make physical contact with any bear, it’s best to drop to the floor, lay face down, and make a cannonball position. Cover your neck with your arms and hands, and curl up to protect your stomach.
A bear with cubs can be extremely aggressive. If you ever encounter a bear with cubs, create as much distance as possible and slowly leave the area without turning your back. If you are in close quarters of a bear, bear spray has proven effective in warding off bears.