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Half-asleep bears — unable to hibernate — seen walking around in Russia, officials say

Some bears in Russia are half-asleep and unable to properly hibernate due to recent weather patterns, according to wildlife officials.

The partially-awake bears were seen walking around near their dens in the Amur region, the region’s Department for the Protection of Wildlife said in a Nov. 20 post on the social media platform Telegram.

Officials said the bears are having trouble hibernating because of the region’s warm weather over the past month.

The Amur region is in southeastern Russia and along the border with China. It has experienced above average temperatures since October, according to the Phobos weather center. At least one city in the region experienced its warmest October on record, the center said.

The warm weather has not affected the hibernation of mother bears and their cubs, wildlife officials said. These families began hibernating on schedule at the end of October.

Bears normally stock up on food then hibernate in their dens during the coldest winter months. Bear hibernation is “strongly tied” to weather patterns and food availability, according to a 2017 study in the Journal of Applied Ecology.

Warmer weather can cause bears to hibernate for a shorter period of time and emerge earlier in the spring, the study found.

The bears in the Amur region might also be having trouble hibernating because of “soggy dens,” Oivind Toien, an expert with the Institute of Arctic Biology at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, told LiveScience. “Temperatures above freezing in wet snowy conditions could cause melt-water to enter dens [and] that could make it uncomfortable for bears to stay in.”

Climate change has already affected — and will likely continue to affect — bear hibernation patterns, researchers found.

“For every 1°C (about 1.8°F) increase in winter minimum temperatures, bears reduced hibernation by an average of six days,” the study said. As a result, researchers said that bears are expected to be active for longer periods of the year, leading to more human-bear interactions.

Google Translate and Yandex Translate were used to translate the Telegram post from the Department for the Protection of Wildlife of the Amur Region and information from the Phobos weather center.

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