Yosemite Bears are Active and Looking for Food as Unseasonably Warm Winter Continues

Steven Agar |
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A mother bear was spotted in the forest near Hetch Hetchy in a photo shared Saturday (not this one). Credit: Pinterest

It’s so unseasonably warm and dry right now in the Central Sierra, some bears that normally hibernate in Yosemite in the coldest depths of winter are active, out and about, and looking for food, reports uniondemocrat.com.

A mother bear and her cubs have been spotted and photographed in the Tuolumne River watershed, near the Hetch Hetchy entrance station to Yosemite National Park, and a smaller bear has been seen in the Merced River watershed around Yosemite Valley.

“It’s not unusual to have warm, dry spells in winter in the Central Sierra,” Tom Dang, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Sacramento, said Tuesday. “Even in extreme wet winters like last year, there were brief breaks from storms and cold. But the current heat wave is the second one so far this winter, counting one in December, which was drier than normal.”

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Yosemite National Park. Credit: hcn.org

Asked Tuesday for perspective on how the early February heat wave is affecting bears and other animals, John Buckley with the Central Sierra Environmental Resource Center called from Yosemite Valley:

“Here in Yosemite today, it’s T-shirt weather, people are in shorts,” Buckley said. “In the sun it’s incredibly warm. Over in the shady side of the valley it’s cooler, some people are in down coats. It feels like about 70 over here. This exceptional weather is affecting wildlife. When it’s warm weather, the bears don’t stay hibernating. They’re moving around.”

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Black bears in Yosemite. Credit: phys.org

For bears at elevations of 7,500 feet, 8,000 feet and higher, the current warm, dry spell is less intense and it’s more likely they are still hibernating. The challenge for active bears right now is finding enough to eat when food is limited. One of the reasons they hibernate in winter is because the food supply is typically scarce.

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