Many of you are familiar with the story of bears and their “winter sleep.” There are major differences between the hibernation of northern bears and that of our southern black bears.  Since the reason for hibernation is the lack of food (bears simply sleep away the winter when food is in short supply, to conserve their energy) the period of rest is shorter in an area that still may have some food available.  For example, in Florida, only pregnant females or sows with cubs actually hibernate.  There is still food for bears to eat.

The other day, we posted photos of the “daybeds” that Colton Bear had created shortly before his release.  Here is another such photo.

daybed

An adult male bear may do his “hibernating” in a daybed, moving from one place to another and making new beds as he goes through the winter.  This is why residents in our mountains sometimes see bears moving about during winter, and ask, “Why aren’t they hibernating?”  Sows that are going to give birth in January (bear cubs are being born as you read this!) go into a den by early December.  Sows that are traveling with cubs born last January, now becoming yearlings, go into a den with the cubs, in order to teach them how to find a den and prepare it.  Dens take many forms – brush piles, root balls of fallen trees, crevices between boulders, and in the Smokies, a favorite densite is high in atree that has been hollowed out by lightning.  These tree dens may be 60-80 feet off the ground! 

Young black bears, like Colton Bear generally hibernate for a good part of the winter, so we assume that he has found himself a cozy spot to sleep away the rest of the winter.  We would not expect him to be out and about until March or April.  He should be spending his  birthday sleeping peacefully.