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Springtime is the Time for Bears

After a very cold and snowy February and early March, the last few days have been warm, sunny, and pleasant. The temperatures have been consistently in the high 40s (F) or above for the last three days, with the lows getting just barely below freezing. Today even reached 60 F. The spring rains haven’t started yet, but the warmth has ushered in a decidedly spring-like feeling. The snow is melting, too, but not all is without concern. Springtime is also bear time. It is appropriate that the first day of spring was the 20th of this month.

Here in northwest Montana, we have both grizzly bears and black bears, with the black bears far more common. The two kinds of bears are very similar in some regards, though very different in others. For instance, neither actually hibernate, they just go into a deep sleep during the cold part of the year. If the weather warms up for a few days in the winter, these bears will awaken and leave their dens to forage. Otherwise, the bears remain asleep, surviving off of the fat they added during the previous spring, summer, and fall.

The past month and a third have been very cold and snowy, so the bears wouldn’t have had the opportunity to forage. Bears have been known to lose over 100 pounds when they can’t forage and have to live off their fat. 

With the return of warmer temperatures and melting snow, it won’t be long before the bears rouse from their slumber. Having lost a lot of weight, they will have one thing foremost on their minds when they awake: Food! Put mildly, they will awaken ravenously hungry.

Although black bears tend to avoid man, this time of year, all bets are off. Hunger overwhelms caution. Grizzlies, which aren’t especially fearful or cautious around people, will be just as hungry. Most people who’ve been around here for long know that in the spring, special precautions need to be taken and people need to step up their awareness a notch. 

Bears are omnivorous and will eat practically anything. They’ll eat cat and dog food that has been left out for pets, and aren’t averse to eating cats and dogs if they get a chance. They will even raid bird feeders for the seeds. Undoubtedly, this is the most dangerous time of year in bear country. Once they’ve had the chance to eat a few meals, they settle down and become normal bears. By then, plants will be starting to put out fresh leaves and grasses will stir to life again, giving the bears plenty to eat. 

I’ve not seen any bears yet this year and am not aware of any being reported in town, yet, but that is hardly surprising. It has only been warm for a few days, after all. 

I welcome the spring, despite the rain that will come. The bears welcome spring, too. It is simply hoped that our paths won’t cross this early in the year. I don’t fear bears, but I do have a strong respect for them and knowledge of what they are capable of when they are hungry or angry.

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What do you think?

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Written by Rex Trulove

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27 Comments

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  1. Great information on bears. I do suppose if there had been a Goldilocks that she would not have made it out of the house in one piece if three bears suddenly came home lol I love seeing them and viewing them in zoos but would be afraid to see one in the wild.

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    • Goldilocks would have been an appetizer for breakfast. If a person is cautious and observant, bears aren’t bad. Most bear attacks happen because people do foolish things. It is rarely the fault of the bears. However, when they first wake up, they can be unpredictable.

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  2. Great information on the bears. I always learn something when I read your posts. A beautiful story about the bears. We have to always have that respect for all wild animals.

    We have gotten so much rain this year, I hope we are done for a little while.

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        • I hear you. We have a snowpack that is well above average for this time of year. If we get the average amount of rain we usually get for March, April, and May, we will no doubt have the same situation we had last year; floods. The ground simply can’t absorb that much moisture all at once.

          Last year, there were areas of the state that were still flooding in the last part of July; a month and a half after our dry part of the year usually starts.

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          • It is a little disconcerting.

            Right now, 1/3 an inch of rain causes flooding warnings throughout all of southern Maryland. We already have issues with flooding when there are large rains, but now the ground is so saturated it is really bad.

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        • There is also the collateral damage that most people don’t think about. Last year, when our river water finally receded, it kept dropping until it was so low that I could have waded across the river without getting my belly button wet. The reason was that the floods had toppled a 75-foot Ponderosa pine tree, then washed it downstream and through the hydro-electric dam about 25 miles downstream from here.

          The tree virtually destroyed the turbines for the generators and the turbines couldn’t be worked on while they were below water level. Instead of having one of six flood gates partway open, they had to open all six all of the way. That isn’t a large dam and it doesn’t hold back a huge amount of water, but it was enough to drop the normal flow.

          We didn’t have power blackouts, but that is only because of the amount of electricity that is generated in a 200-mile radius of here. There are many other hydro dams and the wind generators in eastern Washington, so they just diverted the power we needed. Still, that was indirectly caused by the floods and it impacted farmers, ranchers, the town, the power in the grid, over-all, plus the fishermen, swimmers, and boaters who usually take advantage of the high flow of the river. All of that was collateral damage.

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          • 2018 was the wettest year ever in the DMV (District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia). Ellicott City was on the national news again, because it was again completely destroyed by floods.

            I feel your pain.

            The issue now for the DMV, is that the rain has stayed.

            As of June 2018, we were actually a below average rain year.
            In the 3 quarters since then, we are plus more than 25 inches of rain. The ground is now so wet, that there is no water absorption.

            It is the sad reality of a changed climate. We hope int he DMV it is a temporary change.

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        • It really has little to do with climate yet, though it shows a weather trend. We’ve had colder, snowier, longer winters now in the Pacific Northwest for the better part of the last 10 years, with shorter summers. This year was also the coldest year in Arizona in the last 40, with snow actually closing interstate highways. It wasn’t just an inch or two, either. One interstate was closed after receiving 34 inches in 24 hours.

          We haven’t started flooding yet this year and I hope we don’t, but it is hard to say if we will. There is much more snow than normal in the mountains.

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          • The scariest thing is that last year (2018) was the all-time warmest year globally.

            The last five years in fact, are in the top 6 warmness years of recorded history.

            The issue is bad, the soggy ground makes it much harder for early planting. Last years July – September wetness made it really hard for harvesting the plants.

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        • The strange part is that according to records, it was quite a bit hotter 2,000 years ago and again about 1,100 years ago. Many of the deserts in the world are also getting greener and show signs of shrinking. Ocean levels are barely rising, overall. Since 2014, many more cold temperature records have been broken, especially in the northern US, than the number of hot temperature records that have been broken in the same time frame.

          I find it especially interesting that during roughly the same period, the sun’s activity has changed substantially, with many major solar mass ejections.

          It is also interesting that the shifting of the north magnetic pole has accelerated drastically…so much so that it is no longer in Canada, it is now in Russia.

          We lack knowledge of how the climate functions, how many natural cycles there are, and how everything relates to everything else. Could the sun’s changing activity, the shifting of the poles, and the weather all be related? Probably, but we don’t know exactly how. There are a lot of guesses, but until we know about a few thousand times more than we currently do, they are only guesses.

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          • I would actually say that the scientists in the Antartic project have a pretty good grasp of how climate has changed since before the last two ice ages. The data you are sharing around the temperatures 2200 years ago come from that study.

            Straight forward here is the issue. The last 130 or so years of recorded yearly global temperatures show a very consistent flow.

            The past 10,000 years show a similar flow.
            normally the flow is in 2-3 year increments.

            Therea re a few outliers, normally before the onset of an ice age where temperatures over a 5 year period go down every year.

            There are, however, no instances where the temperature over a 6 years period is not only hotter overall than the last year, but represents the hottest years on record.

            Normally a hot year produces massive rain. The massive rain then cools the earth. In the past five years, we’ve seen the rain increase, but the earth isn’t cooler its warmer.

            There are no reputable climatologists that say what is happening to our weather is normal. In fact, all climatologists say the impact is going to be sooner (20 years or less) rather than later.

            The time to act is now.

        • “Normal” is an absolutely subjective term. There are plenty of true scientists (those with degrees) who totally disagree with anthropomorphic global warming and they are armed with considerable data to back it up. At last count, over 31,000 true scientists have disagreed with AGW and the reasons they cite; the data and reasoning is quite compelling.

          Of course, people are going to believe whatever they want.

          As for the scientists in Antarctica, I would disagree that they have a good grasp of what is happening with the climate. For that matter, it wasn’t just ice core samples that show that it was much warmer 2,000 years ago. There is also evidence that it warmed up very rapidly to the point where it was 2,000 years ago. Why was it so hot then? We haven’t a clue, though lots of guesses. Why did temperatures take an abrupt nosedive during the little ice age? Again, we don’t know, though there are plenty of guesses. Greenland was certainly far warmer before the little ice age.

          We’ve only had the advantage of being able to track weather on a global scale for roughly the past 50 years; about half the amount of time needed to average the weather to arrive at ‘climate’. In fact, 100 years ago, most weather stations didn’t even exist. We can only guess what the weather was like then, and we’ve seen plenty of times how inaccurate those guesses were.

          Although it is a long read, if you are honestly interested, I can share a great article by one of the 31,000 true scientists, the ones with degrees, that refutes AGW pretty thoroughly, with data. In fact, I shared the link here in another post. He also explained what he had to go through in order for his credentials to be accepted (he had to prove beyond a doubt that he really was a scientist and really did have a degree in science.) It probably won’t change many minds, though. I’ve been recording our weather here in Montana every year for quite a while, and that of Oregon for even longer…wherever I’ve lived. That data shows that the current trend in at least Montana and Oregon has been for longer, colder, snowier winters and shorter summers, but if a person firmly believes that global warming exists, nothing I can show and nothing that scientists can show will change their minds.

          I still like the analogy, mostly because it is clearly true, that if I’m wearing a green shirt and someone is totally convinced that it is red, no proof will change their minds until they are willing to allow their minds to change.

          This is the reason I seldom argue about AGW. There is plenty of scientific data that shows that it doesn’t exist, but people who aren’t willing to look at the data objectively are usually going to ignore it.

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    • Where I grew up, there were many black bears, so from the time that I can first remember, there were always bears. They are tremendously powerful animals and top predators, but they are also interesting and the mothers are quite protective of their young, which also make their first appearance outside the dens in spring. Mother bears are especially dangerous because the developing young have been feeding on her milk, so she’s lost even more weight during the winter.

      Since she is also very protective, it is also unwise to step between a mother bear and her cubs, even accidentally. A mother bear will protect her cubs with her life and stepping between her and her cubs is perceived as a threat to her babies. She will do anything in her power to eliminate the threat. That is true anytime, but it is worse when she’s also extremely hungry.

      Still, on a few occasions, I had to chase bears out of our house. They aren’t as vicious as most people think and don’t attack without a reason, otherwise, I wouldn’t be around to write about them. 🙂

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