One Man's Alaska

Bears, hibernating, and hypothermia

April 4, 2009

I was wondering about bears the other night, about things like how they hibernate, if they ever wake up during the winter, things like that, and then I found this link at NOVA Online where they write about hibernating animals, including bears.

If that link is right, it's interesting to me that bears don't hibernate in the same sense that other animals do. They refer to bears as being in a state of lethargy (kind of like me in the winter), as opposed to hibernating like the other animals do.

Here's a great quote from that article comparing bears to the other hibernating animals:

Once a black bear begins hibernating, it can doze for many months with a body temperature of 88°F or higher, which is within 12°F of summer levels. By contrast, the body temperature of smaller hibernators such as marmots, chipmunks, and ground squirrels may drop below 40°F. These daintier creatures must awaken every few days, raise their body temperatures to summer levels, eat stored food, and pass wastes.

I think it's so cool that other animals can do this, and I wonder if humans can ever do anything like this themselves, or if the body chemistry of these animals is that much different?

Okay, a quick little bit of research here ... humans go into Stage 3 hypothermia (the worst level) when their body temperature drops to 89.6 degrees Fahrenheit, so I guess humans won't be doing this any time soon.

(According to that link, Stage 1 hypothermia can start between 95-98.6 degrees Fahrenheit ... I need to talk to the HVAC guys at work about that.)

back to the One Man's Alaska front page