January 5, 2018 2:45 pm
Updated: January 5, 2018 3:33 pm

Injured black bear near Calgary not seen since before Christmas, likely hibernating: expert

An injured black bear (named Russell by area residents) seen in the area of near Highway 22 and Springbank Road on Dec. 22, 2017.

Courtesy Rob Evans
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An Alberta biologist who has been keeping an eye on an injured black bear that frequents an area west of Calgary says the bruin may now be hibernating.

The bear, which walks with a noticeable limp, had been living in a field near Highway 22 and Springbank Road since the fall. Area residents who were concerned for the well-being of the bear named him Russell and even built him a faux den on private property near the field.

“The very last sighting of him that was reported was on Dec. 23,” Lisa Dahlseide said. “He has not taken the invitation to hibernate in our den that we provided so I’m assuming that he has his own structure built for himself in the treed area that he frequents.”

Dahlseide said it’s also possible Russell may be hibernating in the den he was born in.

READ MORE: Concern grows over injured bear near Calgary


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Although hibernation would be normal this time of year, Dahlseide said she remains concerned because Russell was underweight and didn’t appear to have a thick undercoat that other bears would develop.“It is worrisome. That was really cold weather – but I’m really just hoping that he adapted and that’s he’s still alive.”

Bear researcher Gordon Stenhouse agrees that bears can be very adaptive. Throughout his career, Stenhouse has captured and handled many bears as part of ongoing research activities.

“There’s times when we’ve caught bears – one that I can remember very clearly – that it’s running at say 40 kilometres an hour. We catch the bear and we prepare to put a collar on it and notice it doesn’t have a foot. It’s missing a foot and yet it’s running at 40 kilometers an hour.”

“Bears have an amazing capacity to heal.”

An injured black bear (named Russell by area residents) seen in the area of near Highway 22 and Springbank Road on Dec. 22, 2017.

Courtesy Rob Evans

Stenhouse said it could help Russell’s recovery if he were to be hibernating.

“I’m assuming that there would be benefit for the healing of an injury over the course of hibernation.”

READ MORE: Biologist worries about ‘well-intentioned’ people feeding black bear west of Calgary

Dahlseide said it’s hard to tell if not seeing the bear lately is a good or bad sign. On one hand, Russell could be continuing to hibernate, but she had anticipated he’d resurface when temperatures warmed up.

“When the weather does warm it’s perfectly normal for any bear, even a perfectly healthy bear, to come out and forage a little bit.”

“We had expected to see him in this last week, but we didn’t. That doesn’t necessarily mean he didn’t survive – hopefully it just means he’s really sleeping.”

“It is just that waiting game – and we may have to wait until March,” she said.

© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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