Hibernation: How animals prepare for winter

Many animals are getting ready for the long, cold months of winter. They’ve probably have spent most of the fall season gathering all the food they could possibly collect to prepare for hibernation. But what are the preparations for the winter?

According to Webster dictionary, hibernation is

“to be or become inactive or dormant”

or a better way to look at this is animals take a very long winter vacation. During hibernation, animals that perform this condition have lower body temperature, conserve energy by decreasing physical mobility, and decrease metabolic rate. These types of animals conserve energy by reducing their metabolism, a chemical process that converts stored fat into energy.

Studies have shown that animals, which hibernate, have a decrease in heart rate, causing a slow down of their metabolism. And, in this way, these animals are able to use their stored fat and convert it to energy. That’s why bears, in particular, eat sufficient foods like nuts, berries, insects, fish, roots and other foods to increase their body mass and fat. Foods rich in fat content are salmon and nuts.

Hibernating bear sleeping in a cave

Fatty acids, special components in these foods, are biochemically converted to energy precursors like glycerol. Fat also serves as a great insulator. Since the cold winter months lack the provision of food due to weather change, these animals must hibernate in secluded areas to keep warm and survive until the spring season.

For some animals, it is also a reproduction stage, where they await the birth of their offspring. Examples of animals that hibernate are mammals like bears, bats, hamsters, skunks, and raccoons. In particular, bears that hibernate are polar bears, black bears, and grizzly bears to name a few common species. These animals live in very cold weather where the winter season can last up to 6 months.

The places bears like to hibernate are caves or dens to keep other predators away and protect their offspring when spring comes. Bears and other animals get ready for winter by gathering and hunting for food.

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