Friday, October 24, 2008

Bears Still Don't Hibernate

I recently blogged about how we were learning about bears. One of the things I was shocked to learn was that bears don't hibernate. According to our text, and a few Internet websites, they go into a state of dormancy rather than hibernation. Well, folks, I'm here to tell you that I recently learned that bears neither hibernate nor go into dormancy. It's true!

The kids and I went to Woodland Park Zoo on Monday for their homeschool day. One of the programs that they offered were docent led tours of specific areas of the park. Since we had yet to visit the "Northern Trail" area of the zoo, I chose that tour.

Well, that tour included the grizzly exhibit. Thinking I was oh-so-smart, I raised my hand to ask if the zoo's bears go into dormancy each winter. Notice I didn't ask if they hibernated. The docent was quick to correct me. "Bears don't go into dormancy," he said. "Bears don't hibernate either," he said. "Bears go into a state called torpor," he said.

Torpor? Huh?


My understand, which is actually a complete lack of understanding, is that all three states (hibernation, dormancy, and torpor) are similar and vary slightly in definition. Regardless, bears are still not true hibernators.

Regardless of what bears actually do, don't mess with a sleeping bear. According to our guide, a bear can wake up and be fully back to a normal, alert state in 4 seconds. Not much time to run away now, is it?

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Luke Holzmann said...

Thanks for the update. Now I can pretend to be smart next time I'm at the zoo! [Bwahahaha ha!]