737 The Question Is... Hibernation.


Tom Garrett 2 years, 9 months ago

Up in Juneau, Alaska, the snow has finally melted away as it does around April each year. Found under the melting snow in a local neighborhood was a dead black bear. And in the black bear was an arrow which apparently wounded it during the winter months, an odd sort of occurrence because bears hibernate.

Thirty-six year-old Daniel Babcock has been charged with "taking big game in a closed area." Alaska Wildlife Troopers claim that some time back in November Babcock shot an arrow from a compound bow and wounded the bear, which they claim then jumped a fence into his neighbor's yard, where it died. And sorry, no evidence in support of that claim was included in the report I read.

If the "Wildlife Troopers" are correct it means that the bear, a known and very dangerous predator which attacks, kills, and wounds far more people each year than grizzlies do, was in someone's back yard after it should have been in hibernation. To my thinking, that put the bear in a place, and at a time, where a homeowner might be forced to kill it.

If some bear showed up in my back yard so late in the year it would scare the hell out of me. I and my son regularly go out to one of the outbuildings at night, either to get something in a storage building or to work in the shop. In fact, twice a day every day recently I have gone out to our new storage building to hang upside down on an inversion table to get rid of a severe sciatica problem. At that time I am alone and unarmed, and at age 82 I would be a pushover for a black bear.

In case you do not know it, black bears are stealth hunters. They attack from cover when stalking humans, attacking them from behind, and overwhelming them before they have a chance to defend themselves.

Furthermore, the very fact that a black bear, a species which normally avoids human contact, was in a back yard so late in the year hints very strongly that it had some reason to be there. It hints that the bear is either sick or weakened in some way and may have become a man-killer, something not unknown where black bears are concerned.

It is rare in the extreme to see a black bear after October, even here in Arizona, because by that time the bears have headed for some warm, safe place where they hibernate for the winter. Up in Alaska the hibernation date must be at least that early, if not earlier.

All those facts make it a worrisome thing if a bear begins to approach human habitations in November, even if someone has been foolish enough, and careless enough, to attract it by leaving food of some kind around.

Enough said.

The Question Is....

Without more information, it is hard to say for sure what the situation was, but what do you have to say about the idea of a black bear being in your backyard after the cold weather has driven the rest of the bears to ground?


Pat Randall 2 years, 9 months ago

Why was the bear not found sooner? It takes quite a bit of snow to cover one. My son lives by the golf course and heard a noise one night by his garage. He opened the garage door and came face to face with a bear digging in his garbage can. He closed the door at once and let the bear have the garbage. He had a big dog that barks at everything but that night she never made a sound. He has javelinas, elk, skunks and deer come thru his front yard all the time. The back yard is fenced or they would probably be on his patio. He quit trying to grow any flowers. The pigs uproot his sprinkler system. He can go out most any night and watch the elk eating grass on the golf course. City people don't know what they are missing.


John Lemon 2 years, 9 months ago

Tom, I was told that many bears do not soundly hibernate and can awaken. I can not verify, but it would be an explanation why the bear was out and about.


Tom Garrett 2 years, 9 months ago

"City people don't know what they are missing."

Yes, yes. What a shame. :-)

Actually, a lot of folks who've never spent much time in the woods come up here thinking the wilds are like the parks they've seen. Then they get the shock of their lives. And you can't really blame them for not knowing what to expect, can you? Ever seen a realtor's ad online that gets done extolling Payson or the Rim Country and then says this? "Of course, there are some drawback. Here's a list: Bears that will kill you, elk that will..."

Not likely. :-)

"Tom, I was told that many bears do not soundly hibernate and can awaken. I can not verify, but it would be an explanation why the bear was out and about."

Right, John; I have read that about some bears. What they usually say is that bears don't go into a deep, undisturbed sleep; they stir restlessly. I don't believe they actually leave the den during the deeper parts of the winter, they generally just stir around within the den, but it certainly wasn't the dead of winter yet, was it?

Pat's mention of garbage has relevance too.

What really irked me about the article was the mention of the wildlife storm troopers and their rush to charge someone with a crime. Where's their proof? They haven't got a lick of evidence to prove what is at best a wild conjecture.

Without a doubt, the reason they jumped to the conclusion that the bear was shot and jumped a fence was because the person next door happened to be someone who owned a bow. Want to bet?

As soon as they found out about that they jumped right on it, made up a story that fitted what they wanted to believe, and then charged someone with a crime. That is NOT how the law is supposed to work. FIRST, you have evidence, and THEN you charge someone — IF there's someone who can be charged.

Think of the assumptions they made without any direct evidence:

• Place where bear was shot.

• Date it was shot.

• Reason no one saw it there until the spring thaw.

• Person who did the shooting.

• Reason bear was not in backyard of shooter.

Unless you can absolutely prove each of those assumptions you have no case. You can't just go into court with a story and present it as a fact.

Why that arrow itself could explain why the bear was wandering around. The presumed date of the shooting (again, there is NO evidence to prove the date) is just after the close of bear hunting season, so it would be just as reasonable to conclude that the fact that the bear had been wounded during the bow hunting season and had wandered near human habitations in search of food because it could not feed itself in the wild, or to conclude that it was not in hibernation because of the injury.


Tom Garrett 2 years, 9 months ago

To end this comment on a happier note, think about this:

The way they are making up evidence reminds me of something we used to use in the Air Force when we didn't have an ETA on an aircraft and some irritating VIP kept insisting that we must know what we couldn't possibly know.

After a while we'd say, "Well, General we don't have an ETA from the aircraft, but we can give you a WAG."

"Harrumph! Well, that's better. What is it?"

"Nineteen hundred hours, sir."

And off he would toddle.

WAG = Wild Adze Guess. :-)


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