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Hibernation: A Long Winter’s Nap

How would you like to sleep through the frigid temperatures of winter and wake up in spring? Some animals do just that. It’s called hibernation. Animals hibernate or sleep during winter because finding food can be difficult and extremely cold weather can be life-threatening. Hibernating animals include chipmunks, groundhogs, bears, frogs, bats and some insects.

During hibernation, an animal’s body temperature drops and their breathing and heartbeat slow down drastically. Most hibernators are deep sleepers, however, some are light sleepers. Light sleepers wake up once and a while to eat and are easily awakened. Animals like chipmunks store up food in their homes to snack on, while others like raccoons may leave their homes to look for food, then go back to sleep. Deep sleepers don’t wake up to eat or drink, they survive off of the body fat they gained by eating extra food in the fall. Bears are special hibernators, they fall somewhere in between light and deep sleepers. While they do pack on pounds in the fall and can go up to 100 days without eating, drinking or going to the bathroom, they are easily awakened and may even wake up during hibernation to look for food. Once the warm weather returns, all hibernating animals wake up to find food and the cycle begins all over again.

Did You Know?

  • The Common Poorwill is the only bird species that hibernates.
  • Some bats breathe only once every two hours while hibernating.
  • Arctic ground squirrels can spend up to 9 months in hibernation.
  • During hibernation, wood frogs freeze solid, but a special sugar produced by their liver keeps them alive.
  • A hibernating chipmunk’s heart rate can go from 350 beats a minute to as low as 4 beats per minute.

Check These Out!


To learn more, check these websites: 

Bird Hibernation

Bear Hibernation

Top Ten Hibernating Animals

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