Friday, November 17, 2006

Unseasonably Warm Weather in Russia has Affected Bears’ Hibernation Pattern

Not a good sign.


Warm weather wrecks Russian bears' winter slumber

POSTED: 8:28 a.m. EST, November 15, 2006

MOSCOW, Russia (Reuters) -- Insomniac bears are roaming the forests of southwestern Siberia scaring local people, as the weather stays too warm for the animals to fall into their usual winter slumber.

The furry mammals escape harsh winters by going to sleep in October-November for around six months, but in the snowless Kemerovo region where the weather is unseasonably warm, bears have no desire yet to hibernate.

"Due to weather conditions, bears didn't go into the winter sleep in time," said Tatiana Maslova, chief expert at a regional environmental agency in the city of Kemerovo, about 3,500 km (2,190 miles) southeast of Moscow.

"Our teams are making sure there is no damage to farming and to local residents," she told Reuters on Wednesday, adding that every patch of land is watched by a specially assigned inspector.

To survive the prolonged winter rest, bears have to put on extra body fat -- up to 180 kg (396 pounds) -- and so spend the preceding months devouring as much food as they can find.

"At the moment there is enough fodder, so they are not wreaking any havoc," Maslova said.

Hunters, out in the woods stalking birds and hares now that the hunting season is open, need protection from restless bears the most, she added.

"We have observers who ensure there are no attacks on hunters."

Bears den in dry places usually covered by snow, and wet weather makes finding a suitable "bedroom" for the winter difficult.

Russian media reported that in the Kemerovo region and other areas, normally cold and snowy by now, there are fresh buds on trees and some flowers have blossomed for the second time this year.

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