Some people dream of soaring like birds. Me? I’d rather be a bear so I can hibernate for months at a time. But is that really how hibernation works? And are bears the only species that does it?
Turns out hibernation isn’t limited to the fearsome bear. According to NOVA, plenty of other creatures settle down for long winter naps, including the woodchuck, chipmunk, and raccoon. But whereas these smaller creatures have to wake up every several days, the American Black Bears can sleep for as long as 100 days at a time.
To prepare for hibernation, a bear hits the buffet pretty hard. Bears pack on an extra 40 pounds of fat per week that can be slowly burned off while sleeping. A bear’s heart rate drops dramatically.
A common misconception is that a hibernating bear is in a state of deep sleep. Not so. “Bears do not enter a state of deep hibernation because they need a higher body temperature in order to meet the demands of pregnancy, birth, and the nursing of young,” according to PBI. Bears who are new moms still take excellent care of the cubs, waking up regularly during winter to make sure the babies are in good health.
According to Bear.org, “hibernation… can last over 7 months in the northern portion of the black bear range where abundant, high quality food is available only from May through August.” In other areas, the bear’s hibernation is considerably shorter.
Some experts argue that technically a black bear doesn’t hibernate at all. Instead, they enter “a state of sedation referred to as torpor.” But no matter what you call it, the bear doesn’t do a lot during the winter, and that sounds like a pretty nice life to me.
How about you guys? What sort of animals do you wish to be? Honey badger? Liger? Radioactive spider with the power to grant unsuspecting teenagers superhero-like powers? Leave a comment below.
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