PUBLISHED: 7:00 PM on Wednesday, November 5, 2008
Not all bears sleepy: Wildlife slowing down but some still looking for food
Temperatures consistently tingling down to the single digits are a sure sign winter is here, and while many bears and other animals are starting to tuck in for the cool weather months, some bruins will remain active throughout the year.

"The bears are slowing down, but there's still a few out being active and trying to find easy food wherever they can," said Jeff Selinger, wildlife biologist with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game in Soldotna.

Selinger said while flying over the area doing a routine check on collared brown bears roughly two weeks ago, many were still on the move.

"Less than a third were in (hibernation), but probably a few have gone in since then," he said.

Bears, both black and brown, also have been making their presence known in several locations close to human habitation. A brown bear has been spotted still moving in the Cohoe Loop Road area, and another brownie ate some livestock a few miles away in the Pollard Loop area last week.

"The majority of bears will typically den up around mid to late October, but we've had a bear sighting every month of the year on the Kenai Peninsula," Selinger said.

As to what triggers bears to go into hibernation, Selinger said it is more than just cold temperatures.

"Lower temperatures, decreased photo period, good body condition with sufficient fat, and decreased availability of food -- they all play a role," he said.

As such, some bears may turn in for the year earlier or later than others depending on how much food they've already been able to eat to pack on the pounds during the winter months. Since some bears may still be searching for food, Selinger said attractants should continue to be kept to a minimum.

Garbage should still be secured in bear-resistant containers, or hauled to the dump. Barbecue grills should be put away for the season. Bird feeders should be filled sparingly.

"If people do want to feed birds, they should put out small amounts so birds can eat it through the day. Don't have any out overnight," Selinger said.

Keeping a clean area around the home also can benefit more than just bruins.

"It's not just a bear thing, moose are also susceptible," Selinger said.

Every year, as the moose get thinner and hungrier while waiting for green-up, some will turn to whatever they can find. Like bears, they too will turn to human-generated garbage if available.

"We've had several cases of dead moose, and when we opened them up, their digestive tract is clogged with plastic from trash bags," Selinger said.

Some moose will get so accustomed to foraging for trash that they will actually attempt to stake their claim to it.

"They'll get into Dumpsters and take them over, charging people approaching to throw away garbage," Selinger said.

Moose also will attempt to feed on forage for other hoofed animals, such as hay, and they'll munch on ornamental plants, such as lilacs and apples, when they stumble upon them.

"If it's still green especially, moose will feed on them," he said.

For more information on wintering the home and yard for wildlife, contact Fish and Game at 262-9368.