Bear Necessities Month
Written By: Caroline Stillitano, Community Engagement Coordinator
Happy September TMPF blog readers! The promise of the fall season is not the only exciting thing about September... September is also Bear Necessities Month!
You may be asking yourself, “What is Bear Necessities Month?”. Well, Bear Necessities Month was created by the World Society for the Protection of Animals in 2012, and has been a month focused on protecting bears ever since! Inspired by the Bare Necessities song from the 1967 movie The Jungle Book, Bear Necessities Month was created to save bears and their natural habitat through raising awareness of bear conservation. You can observe Bear Necessities Month by contributing towards the protection and welfare of bears, telling your friends about bears, as well as being Bear Aware when you are spending time outdoors!
If you live in the Truckee Meadows region and are planning to spend time in Tahoe National Forest this fall, you may be lucky enough to spot an American black bear! Black Bears are the largest mammals
of the Sierra carnivores and are commonly found in the Lake Tahoe Basin. They can be identified by their brown or cinnamon colored coat and can weigh up to 500 pounds, but typically are around 200 to 300 pounds. Bears are omnivores, which means they eat other animals, plants, and even insects. They especially love to forage for berries, beehives, and nuts.
Fun Fact: While bears are foraging they can disperse around 200,000 seeds per hour, making them integral to the composition of plant species in their ecosystems!
September is the perfect time to be thinking about conservation of bears as well as your own coexistence with them! This is because black bears are most active in September and October, right before they start their hibernation. These fall months are when bears are collecting food to store in their bodies as fat, a process known as hyperphagia. Black bears will likely be much more active during these months as they are foraging for as much food as they can, eating almost nonstop. During this time, the bears will need to increase their body weight by 35% in order to hibernate. During hibernation, their bodies will use these fat stores to break down into water and calories that the bears can use as they rest.
Similarly to other large mammals, bears do not truly hibernate due to their sheer size. Their bodies are too big to reduce their body temperatures enough for true hibernation, so they enter a state known as torpor during the winter. During this, their heart rate lowers slightly and metabolism slows, but their body temperature only drops about 10 degrees.
When in this state, bears do not need to get up to eat, drink, or go to the bathroom. Because they are not in full hibernation, black bears have the ability to get up for short periods of time if danger is sensed or if they are disrupted. However, a disrupted bear will be very lethargic. Although they do not enter a true state of hibernation, their hibernation period typically begins in November or December, when food sources begin to decrease.
How to protect bears and yourself: Because bears are stocking up on calories before winter rolls around, it is incredibly important to be aware of how you are acting when sharing space with these large creatures. If you are camping and have food with you, it is essential that you store this food properly so the bears cannot sniff it out and get into your treats. This is important not only for your safety and that of other visitors to the area, but also to keep bears wild, as they should be.
A few ways to be Bear Aware and Celebrate Bear Necessities Month:
Observe bears in their natural habitat without disturbing them and tell your friends how to be a respectful visitor to the bears.
Donate to bear conservation initiatives in the area such as Bear League, Lake Tahoe Wildlife Care, and check out this bear awareness campaign from NDOW!
Keep a clean campsite, with food and garbage either in closed vehicles or in a bear safe container.
Don’t keep food, medicine, chap-stick, or shower products in your tent with you as these scented items can attract bears.
Don’t put your food scraps in the campfire as this can attract bears to your campsite.
Stoves and barbecues need to be kept in a secure place or vehicle when not in use. Some bears also are attracted to the smell of motor oil, insect repellant, liquor and other food items.
About the Author:
Caroline received her BA in Environmental Science from the University of Michigan in 2021. Working with the Truckee Meadows Parks Foundation as the Community Engagement Coordinator allows her to follow her passion for environmental justice through expanding access to the outdoors for low income individuals. She enjoys spending time outdoors and is excited to apply her previous volunteer engagement experience to TMPF!
About Tahoe Bears, Keep Tahoe Bears Wild https://www.tahoebears.org/about
Be Bear Aware - Tahoe National Forest, USDA https://www.fs.usda.gov/detailfull/tahoe/home/?cid=FSEPRD581029&width=full#:~:text=As%20common%20residents%20of%20the,grasslands%20or%20in%20the%20desert
Seed Dispersing Bears Influence Plant Community Composition, USA NPN https://www.usanpn.org/node/34879
Black Bears and Hibernation, Utah State University https://extension.usu.edu/wildlife-interactions/featuredanimals/blackbears#:~:text=Hibernating%20bears%20enter%20a%20shallow,for%20the%20body%20to%20use