okay, so I know bears are supposed to be hibernating this time of year. my question is what is the protocol for food storage in grizzly country during the winter? I assumed it was nil and recently ignored food storage warnings in GTNP because of it. However, upon thinking about this and reading a couple pages on here, it seems like there is some concern. pages advising hikers to store food, hang, take every precaution during winter as a bear may be out stretching their legs...
I know they theoretically come out in winter from time to time, and a very unlucky electrical worker was mauled by one on the Kenai peninsula a few winters back (daytime attack), but I've just never seen bear tracks in the snow in mid-winter--have you DC? If they come out, I doubt they venture far. And the odds are probably lowest in Jan/Feb--no more late denners out, and the ones with inadequate fat reserves hopefully haven't run out of fat yet, so just about everyone should be snug in their dens.
Supposedly they're quite easy to wake even when sleeping in winter. A bear researcher I met a few years back said that's why it's important to have at least one overweight grad student on the team.
Can't speak for the Northern Rockies, but bear protocol in the Appalachians is to assume they're active year-round. chugach mtn boy's story about Kenai suggests you're probably best off assuming that everywhere.