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Bear Tracks in the Snow

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Bear Tracks, Allegany State Park (NY) January 2012

By: Pat Coate

While hiking in Allegany State Park in early January we came across some bear tracks. In most winters the black bears of the park would be hibernating in their dens during January. But during warm spells like we had been experiencing, the bears may leave their dens to forage for food.

Hibernation* is pretty amazing – the bears don’t eat, drink or excrete. Their body produces food and water from breaking down fat. They don’t lose muscle mass. Their heart rate drops, often to less than 10 beats per minute, and their body temperature stays high due to their thick fur and high level of body fat. If their body temperature does start to fall, a shiver reflex is triggered which warms them up. Bears don’t hibernate to escape the cold, but as a method to cope with food scarcity.

*Technically bears don’t hibernate, it is more like an extended deep sleep from which they may occasionally awaken as evidenced by these tracks.

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Bear Print – front paw

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Back Paw with lens cap for size comparison


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6 responses

  1. Hibernation — or even long winter sleeps — seems a good way to get through the winter to me.

    19 January 2012 at 3:07 am

  2. How exciting! I agree with Marvin! Let’s all just take a long nap!

    19 January 2012 at 10:06 am

  3. Lynda

    Cool! Ten beats per minute, that’s amazing. Now that’s one deep meditation! : )

    19 January 2012 at 10:39 pm

  4. Hibernating sounds good. It’s all the leaves and grass that they have to eat to form a nice constipational plug that turns me off to the idea.
    When I was a kid and camping with the family in the beautiful San Isabel forest of Colorado our camp was raided by a bear. It came in during the night and broke into the supplied tent, perhaps smelling some leftovers. He didn’t get any food, but did take a bite out of the checkers/chess set. It was a fond memory, seeing pops chasing the bear away with a torch, running out into the midnight woods in naught but his boxers…
    It scared my little sister so bad she threw up.

    Those are some fat heavy paws attached to this bear. I’d like to see him in action, from a distance.

    20 January 2012 at 12:32 am

  5. That is a great track pic! Looks like a rather small bear, though.

    20 January 2012 at 7:49 pm

  6. If I were a bear and woke up to snow everywhere and no food, I’d be pretty angry! Are there any studies whether the bears are extra aggressive during these unusual warm spells when they leave the dens?

    22 January 2012 at 6:33 pm

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