Brown Bear Watching in the Winter?

During our bear-watching tours we are often asked what are bears doing during wintertime and if is possible to see them.

To start with the second question: the chance to see bears in the wilderness (as all our bear viewing tours are) during winter are very slim. And here’s why:
During winter, starting with late October or November, depending on weather conditions, bears are sleeping and living out of the fat they accumulate during summer. As opposite to us humans, bears are not unhappy to build fat, they will burn it by doing nothing all winter. And if you think that doing nothing is an amazing way to burn fat, 🙂, don’t forget that that means not eating either. Almost all winter. All they do is sleeping.
We should not use the world hibernation because the brown bear (Ursus Arctos) doesn’t really hibernate, but go into a deep sleep, called torpor.
Wait, what?? There is a difference between hibernation and sleep?
Yes, there is: as with your windows operated computers (sorry, Apple fans, we’re just trying to explain some things here 🙂 ), deep sleeping is a light version of hibernation. Think like that: a computer hibernation will save all docs on disk and allows the laptop to use zero power. Similarly an animal hibernating will use almost no energy, drastically reduce all metabolism and wake up slowly.
In a deep sleep (remember is called “torpor”) most of body functions have reduced activity, but vital functions like breathing and blood circulation continue almost unchanged. Brain activity also doesn’t slow down, but goes into a state of permanent awakeness, therefore the bear can wake up at slightest noise. Also their body temperature drops only slightly, while in hibernation there is a drastic change in body temperature.

The reserves of fat that they build during summer and fall are just enough so the bears can survive the winter, therefore for them to wake up and start looking for food in the middle of the winter is quite dangerous: this is consuming a lot of their low reserves of energy and if they don’t find food they can die in few days. Also when the spring comes they only wake up when is sure to find enough food to survive.

For _bear watching later in the fall_ we recommend the area around Tusnad, where bears are used to lower temperatures allover the winter, so they start the torpor later on.

Brown Bear viewing with Finns, near Brasov

At the last day of August 2018 we met a group of Finhish guys and girls while waiting for a cable car in the mountains. We became friends and told them about activities that can be done near Brașov, including viewing the brown bear.

One day later they contacted us and asked if we could organize a bearwatching tour near Brasov, on Sunday. Normally we don’t do this tour on Sunday, as our partners from the National Forests Authority have their day off. However, after talking to our friends the rangers we could happily tell them we can do the tour, so 11 finish people anf their Romanian guide went to spend the afternoon admiring the bears and learning about them.

We could quietly observe about 14 bears, including 2 moms with cubs. One with 3 cubs, and one with one shy cub, climbing in the nearby tree when a larger bear showed. If you want to learn more about the brown bear, click here!

hiking through the forest to the bear hide
Hiking on the way to the bear hide
relaxed bears
Baby bear climbing in the tree
Baby bear climbing in the tree
Carpathian Mountains brown bear
brown bears
Lazy afternoon for some brown bears, relaxing
Lazy afternoon for some bears, relaxing near our bear hide