By Steve Hubrecht

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A family of bears has been hanging out in Invermere far later than normal, but with two weeks of snow and sub-zero temperatures local conservation officers are hopeful the bruins are finally off hibernating.

Normally the black bears that prowl through Columbia Valley communities in September and October, searching for fruit trees and garbage cans to raid, leave the towns and head off to hibernate in the first or second week of November.

But a mother bear and three cubs have been repeatedly sighted in Invermere well into December, prompting some local residents to worry that the bears could be in trouble. A local resident living in Upper Invermere (the neighbourhood of Invermere north of 13th Street, west of downtown and above the Athalmer industrial park) saw the bears in her neighbour’s yard on Wednesday, Dec. 6. The resident snapped a few photos and shot a video, which she later shared with the Pioneer. She explained that the bears are awake at a time of year when they ought to be snuggled safely in a den for a long winter’s nap, and that the mom and presumably hungry cubs might not be in a good situation.

Earlier this week senior Invermere conservation officer Greg Kruger told the Pioneer that conservation officers haven’t had any formal reports of bear activity in Invermere for some time, but “that said there have been some social media posts that would indicate the bear family was in Invermere up until about a week and a half ago.”

On the night of Thursday, Dec. 7 temperatures dropped and Invermere saw heavy snowfall. From then until Pioneer press deadline earlier this week, the snow and colder temperatures remained in place, and not coincidentally, social media reports of the bear family had tailed off.

“With the snow, they should have found a suitable hibernating spot,” said Kruger. “That bear family stayed out longer than most. At this time of year in Invermere they would have been getting non-natural food sources, such as household garbage. That’s not ideal, because those cubs will always remember that food source and may come back looking for it in the future.”