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Stay Bear Aware: Warmer winter temperatures could mean bears becoming active earlier than usual

The Custer Gallatin National Forest reminds people to stay bear aware all year long.
Posted at 5:13 PM, Feb 01, 2024

BOZEMAN — Even in the wintertime, it's always important to stay bear aware, whether you're recreating outdoors or hiking. With the warm winter Montana has been having, it could be a possibility the bears come out of their torpor early.

“In the winter we've never brought bear spray,” says David Robbins.

Robbins has lived in Bozeman on and off for over 30 years. He says during the winter, he rarely thinks about bears.

Still, Robbins says, “We need to be more bear aware in the winter."

Contrary to popular belief, bears don’t hibernate. They go into torpor. The difference is torpor is an involuntary state whereas hibernation is voluntary.

Morgan Demeyer, public affairs specialist for the Custer Gallatin National Forest, says with this warm winter, bears could be more likely to come out of torpor early.

"With changing weather, if it continues to get warmer, we might see that activity a little bit more," says Demeyer.

She says bear sightings haven’t been out of the ordinary so far this year.

"Our last confirmed bear activity, grizzly activity, was the end of December. Honestly, not that too out of out of the normal," says Demeyer.

The Custer Gallatin National Forest is always reminding people to remain bear aware all year long.

"So the post that we posted was just to remind folks that we are in grizzly country and they can be active throughout the year," says Demeyer.

For Robbins, he says he’s going to start bringing his bear spray with him while recreating during this warmer winter.

"Dressing up for winter is hard enough, right? We just have to add that to our list," says Robbins.