Hyperphagia … And Other Seasonal Bear Topics
Jason Holley is a supervising wildlife biologist for the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. Based in CDFW’s North Central Region headquarters in Rancho Cordova, Holley supervises five wildlife biologists working in 12 counties -- Amador, Alpine, Butte, Calaveras, El Dorado, Glenn, Nevada, Placer, Sacramento, San Joaquin, Sutter and Yuba.
Holley joined Lake Tahoe Television (South Lake Tahoe Channel 12/Truckee Channel 14) recently to talk about seasonal changes impacting Tahoe’s bears and steps residents need to take to keep these bears wild and free from human conflict. What follows is a synopsis of that interview.
Lake Tahoe Television: Is hibernation starting now?
Holley: Tahoe’s bears have been in hyperphagia (hī-pər-ˈfā-j(ē-)ə) – eating almost constantly – as they prepare for hibernation. Now they are starting to slow down metabolically and may seem lethargic as they look for their dens. So it’s a great time to make sure that your crawl spaces are properly secured because you do not want a bear using your home for its winter den.
Lake Tahoe Television: Do bears stay asleep all winter?
Holley: California is huge – about half the size of the entire Eastern Seaboard. Bears behave differently in different parts of the state. At lower elevations such as in Southern California, bears hardly hibernate at all. Some Tahoe bears will show some activity throughout winter. They may wake up and check out their surroundings.
Lake Tahoe Television: Just last night I saw a bear looking for garbage at a gas station.
Holley: Thanks for bringing that up. Residents and businesses always need to properly store food and garbage – especially in bear country. And it’s getting darker earlier now, especially with the time change. We all need to be more careful and watchful for wildlife on the drive home from work. Vehicle strikes of wildlife, unfortunately, are all too common around Lake Tahoe.
For more information about living and recreating in bear country, please visit Keep Me Wild: Black Bear.
A yearling black bear finds a winter den underneath a downed tree. CDFW photo by Sara Holm.