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Experts Warn California Drought Bringing Black Bears Out Of Hibernation Early

SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — Experts are warning that California's drought can create dangerous encounters with black bears as the animals are coming out of hibernation early.

The bears should be hibernating until the spring when they would normally be searching for fresh vegetation. But a warm, dry winter is changing that.

"This year is the worst," said Ann Bryant with The Bear League. "We have a really unusual winter going down right now."

The bear expert from the Tahoe area says it could become a nightmare for skiers. Recently, a bear made its way onto the trail at Heavenly.

"It's a huge worry for all of us that work with the bears," she said. "We're already having nightmares about it."

She says some bears are now wandering out of their caves to enjoy the sunshine. But if they venture out to get a taste of human food?

"Eating the one meal, all bets are off," she said. "It ends the hibernation cycle."

And because of the drought, their natural food supply is drying up, which means they'll start looking for other sources.

"They tend to come around where people live and try to get in their trash or into their garage where they store their trash, or even possibly come into their kitchens," Bryant said.

She also suggests Sierra foothills residents not put out bird feeders and keep their trash cans covered.

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