Bears have stopped hibernating in the mountains of northern Spain, scientists
revealed yesterday, in what may be one of the strongest signals yet of how much
climate change is affecting the natural world.
In a December in which bumblebees, butterflies and even swallows have been on
the wing in Britain, European brown bears have been lumbering through the
forests of Spain's Cantabrian mountains, when normally they would already be in
their long, annual sleep.
Bears are supposed to slumber throughout the winter, slowing their body rhythms
to a minimum and drawing on stored resources, because frozen weather makes food
too scarce to find. The barely breathing creatures can lose up to 40 per cent of
their body weight before warmer springtime weather rouses them back to life.
But many of the 130 bears in Spain's northern cordillera - which have a slightly
different genetic identity from bear populations elsewhere in the world ...