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Bears are coming out of hibernation early in the Italian Alps due to freak warm weather
The freak warm weather has seen brown bears in the north of Italy emerge from their dens as the snow begins to melt.
Wildlife rangers say the confused bears could cause problems in the region with no natural food yet in the mountains.
The false spring could force the bears to go into the valleys to raid bins for food.
Nine-year-old bear Francesco, who is fitted with a radio collar, was tracked in the Carnic Alps in the northern region of Friuli-Venzia Giulia.
High temperatures in December forced Francesco, who weighs 189 kilos, to start his hibernation late and the unusually warm weather saw him come out of his den after just 48 days.
Grizzly bears normally hibernate of between 152 and 213 days.
He will come down looking for food
Stefano Filacorda, a researcher from the University of Udine, warned Francesco could go into the local towns.
He said: “He will come down looking for food.”
Professor Filacorda told La Repubblica newspaper: “Temperatures were high during December so he was able to find beech nuts, one of the components of his diet. He fattened up, then when the cold weather hit, he went to sleep.
Francesco has been fitted with a radio device for tracking
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There are thought to be around 50 bears living in Italy's north-east
“January was the coldest for 30 years and he slept well, but last week it was warmer at altitudes of 1,500 metres than it was down in the valleys – there was a temperature inversion and it woke him up.”
One bear expert warned Francesco will be “stressed” because of the false spring.
Piero Genovesi, from the Institute for Environmental Research and Protection, said: “Shorter hibernation periods are now quite common.
Francesco lives in the Carnic Alps in the northern region of Friuli-Venezia Giulia Amazing Animals Wed, January 18, 2017
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“The phenomenon is linked to the lack of snow. This year in particular, there was very little snow.
“The bear will now be moving around at a time when there is little food, and that will be stressful for him.”
It is thought there are around 50 brown bears living in Italy’s north-east after an EU-funded project in the 1990s sought to re-establish the species after the bears were nearly driven to extinction after years of hunting.
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