Did you know this bear fact? Bears barely breathe when they are hibernating. They take one breath every 45 seconds. How does a mammal that large take in so little air, and still survive? How interesting! Let’s investigate this natural phenomena a little further.
When bears hibernate, they do not eat or drink, urinate or defecate. Their heart rate may slow to a mere 8 to 10 beats per minute. Really? Then, how do they stay alive during hibernation? Prior to hibernation, bears begin an eating frenzy consuming as many as 20,000 calories per day. This is important so that bears will have enough fat stored to hibernate through the long winter months without food or water. Also, female bears need stored fat in order to reproduce. After mating, the egg will lie dormant for weeks or months. If the female does not gain enough fat prior to hibernation, the egg will self-abort. If the mother bear has stored enough fat and is pregnant during hibernation, the only time she will awaken is to give birth to her cub or cubs in January or February.
Bears curl up in a den barely larger than their bodies. The den may be a hole in a tree, in the ground, or under a ledge. Because it is cold, and food is scarce during the winter months, the bears fall into a deep sleep called a “torpor”. They live on the stored fat that they have consumed during the late summer months, and do not lose muscle. Therefore, when they awaken from their deep, winter sleep, they are as strong as they were in the beginning of hibernation. The only bears that do not hibernate are polar bears. After temperatures rise, and bears awaken from their long winter’s nap, they remain in a state for several weeks called “waking hibernation” in which they may act like they are in a stupor or extremely tired.
While we humans are snug during the winter months under our blankets and quilts, bears have developed a natural way to survive the winter. What a wonderful way to spend the winter!
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