Elk County black bear

This is a photo of a black bear that was taken in Elk County.

BENEZETTE — Participants at a recent Elk Country Visitor Center seminar learned about the ins and outs of hibernation, and why it’s important in order for some animals to survive the winter season.

“PA Hibernators” featured a presentation by Conservation Education Coordinator Ben Porkolab, who provided a PowerPoint and informative session Jan. 5, said center Operations Manager Carla Wehler.

The Elk Country Visitor Center hosts informative sessions several times per month, Wehler says, to give people something to do in the wintertime. It’s also a place where people can learn more about and view elk and other wildlife year-round.

“Our programs offer fun and educational opportunities for both youth and adults,” she said.

According to the Pennsylvania Game Commission, bears are dormant in the winter, remaining in their dens, which can be rock caverns, holes beneath shrubs, trees or dead falls, hollow trees or nests on the ground.

A bear relies on stored fat during hibernation in order to make it to spring, the PGC says.

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“A hibernating bear’s heart rate and breathing slow, and its body temperature drops slightly,” the PGC says on its website. “During this time they do not eat, drink or pass bodily wastes.

Only the black bear is found in Pennsylvania, an estimated 20,000 of them, with adults weighing around 200 pounds, according to the PGC. Some can weigh up to 600 or more pounds, and even a whopping 900 pounds has been recorded.

Although bears are known for venturing into populated areas if food is present during warmer temperatures, it’s also possible they can emerge from their den in the winter if something disturbs them, the PGC says on its website. The PGC regularly reminds bear-country homeowners not to leave garbage out overnight and to clean garbage cans, as well as bring bird feeders inside.

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