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Do Bears Hibernate?

~wildlife education~

Yes and no. Bears are not considered to be true hibernators because they maintain high body temperatures in winter; instead they are considered efficient hibernators. They will sleep for months without eating, drinking, urinating, or defecating.

Orphaned baby bear cubs keeping warm at NIWRA

Bears have an isolative pelt that helps keep their body temperature high while cutting their metabolic rate in half so they can survive the winter. This enables bears to react to danger faster, meaning they can be aroused from sleep and slumber more lightly. Biologists have redefined mammalian hibernation as simply a specialized, seasonal lowering of metabolism when food is less available and atmospheric temperatures are low.

Most B.C. black and brown bears den for four to six months every year, entering their dens in November or December, and re-emerging in March or April. Vancouver Island bears may hibernate for a much shorter time as the climate on the island tends to be milder.

Researchers study bear hibernation to try to find ways to preserve human organs, to help with kidney disorders, and determine if human hibernation could be implemented for long-distance space travel.

Female bears give birth to two or three cubs in January, each weighing less than a pound (200 g). The newborns have practically no hair at first. The cubs do not hibernate but instead suckle and sleep by their mother, which helps to keep them warm. At three months, when they reach a weight of four to eight pounds (1.49 - 2.98 kg.), they leave the den.

Bears will visit urban communities if they detect the availability of food. Your home may also be in their traveling corridor. Become educated about bears and bear proof your community. Avoid bear interactions by storing garbage correctly, cleaning barbeques, picking berries and fruit as they ripen, removing outdoor freezers, feeding pets indoors, putting away all petroleum products, and sprinkling compost with lime.

Be aware that a bear can get more calories from your garbage than by foraging. Bears are highly intelligent and will return for a good meal. Habituation of a bear cannot be changed and may result in their death by euthanasia. It is our responsibility to change our habits to help bears.

You can learn more about black bears by visiting NIWRA. Please help the wildlife in care at NIWRA by making a financial contribution on our secure website. Thank you so much for caring about wildlife!




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