• A grizzly with two cubs (Photo: Michelle Valberg/CanGeo Photo Club)

    A grizzly with two cubs (Photo: Michelle Valberg/CanGeo Photo Club)

As you sit down to tuck into your Christmas dinner this year, spare a thought for hibernating bears in British Columbia.

The animals could be facing a tough winter after an early berry season and a fall salmon run that was projected to be low. Berries are a key source of food for bears, as is salmon, the fat of which bears rely upon to help it hibernate for as long as six months.

Frank Ritcey, the provincial coordinator for WildSafeBC, the British Columbia Conservation Foundation program that aims to reduce human-wildlife conflict, told the CBC in August that bears eat up to 20,000 calories a day in the fall as they prepare to fatten up for the winter. But Ritcey noted that the lack of berries heading into the fall could cause a sharp increase in bear-human conflicts, the CBC reported.

In the same report, Barrie Gilbert, a bear expert at Utah State University’s College of Natural Resources, said that a lack of salmon could see bears starving “to death in their dens,” but that bears wouldn’t necessarily be at long-term risk. “There would be high mortality, but I wouldn’t say it would put them at risk,” Gilbert said. “They go through these cycles quite often.”

Earlier last summer, the CBC reported that the combination of record warm ocean temperatures and low, unusually warm rivers posed a threat to salmon numbers in British Columbia.