• Sara Thompson

Happy Hibernators Get through Winter

Updated: Nov 14, 2020

By Sara Thompson

Special to the Enterprise



Black bear mother and cubs in den, hibernating. Photo by the National Park Service

As the weather continues to get colder and the days shorter many animals prepare for winter.  Some collect food to eat during the winter months, but others will find food and eat and eat to pack on weight.  The later are animals that will curl up in a burrow or other protected space and hibernate for the winter.  This process is more than just eating and sleeping, and it is still not fully understood.

Bears are probably the most well-known animals that hibernate, but several other mammals also hibernate including some species of bats, many rodents, and even some lemurs.  All of these animals have varying lengths of time for hibernations, some only days or weeks, some for several months at a time.  Regardless of the duration, the animal’s body goes through the same changes.

For an animal to hibernate is eats and stores extra fat on its body.  While hibernating the animal will slow down its breathing and heartbeat, drops its body temperature, and reduces its metabolism.  While in this state the animal will use the excess fat on its body to stay alive.  Despite the extended times of inactivity, there is no evidence of loss of bone density or muscle loss.  When the days get longer and warmer the hibernating animal wakes up and starts the process over of eating and storing energy for the following winter.

Every animal does something different in order to survive.  During the winter many animals can survive without needing to change anything, such as human.  Some store food like tree squirrels.  Several other migrate, such as many species of birds, choosing to instead travel somewhere warmer with abundant food.  And other still hibernate to survive winters, such as bears and our native ground squirrels.  How animals survive the winter months are all diverse and each species does what is best for their survival.


Test your knowledge with our Amazing Animals Quiz, or check out some live animal feeds here.