Winter hibernation of the bear, or why does the bear suck his paw?

Everyone knows that the bear is an animal that traditionally hibernates in winter. Since ancient times there has been a popular belief that during hibernation the bear sucks its paw. The implication was that bears do this because they are hungry. Over time, the expression "paw sucking" has become a catch phrase, which is quite often used in the modern world as well, meaning to lead a poor life. So what do bears really do during hibernation and how does it happen? In this article, we will tell you about it.

Article content:When do bears hibernate? Why do bears hibernate? How do bears prepare for hibernation? Bear in hibernationWhy do bears suck a paw? Bear after hibernationWhen do bears hibernate?

Bears hibernate in mid-autumn or early winter. Winter hibernation of bears is directly related to weather and ambient temperature. Therefore, it is difficult to name an exact month when bears hibernate. Usually, it happens with the formation of permanent snow cover and when the temperature stably stays below zero. Before such weather conditions occur, bears simply wander around their range.

Why do bears hibernate?

Bears hibernate to wait out the harsh, hungry winter. After all, the diet of these animals is based on plant food, which with the onset of a cold winter is very difficult to find. Therefore, in summer bears fatten up properly and gain fat to survive the winter in hibernation.

How does a bear prepare for hibernation?

A bear prepares for hibernation by eating heavily and storing nutrients in the form of subcutaneous fat. The bear hibernates in a den that it prepares to spend the harsh winter in comfortably.

Before hibernation, the bear makes a den in a secluded, inaccessible place, usually under fallen trees or in root holes. Occasionally, bears may occupy caves and rock gorges. Occasionally, the animal may dig a shelter directly in the ground. Having found a good hibernation spot, the bear often returns there year after year.

Bear in hibernation

Bear hibernation times vary from a few months to six months. It depends mostly on climatic conditions. In southern areas, where winters with little snow are prevalent, bears may not hibernate at all, but they still accumulate fat reserves, because the food supply decreases significantly during the winter.

Bears sleep in different positions, some of them are comfortable on their sides, while others lie on their backs. Usually bears sleep one at a time. The exception is the bears with cubs, they hibernate together. With the coming of spring, the older cubs come out of the den with their mother. By the way, cubs and female bears live much longer in dens than single bears. Older males are the least likely to stay in the dens.

The hibernation of the brown bear is not too deep; in case of danger, the animal will wake up and leave the den, having gone to look for a safer place. Sometimes bears don't have time to accumulate fat reserves before hibernation; then they may wake up in the middle of the winter, or they won't go to bed at all, but wander in search of food. Such bears are called crank bears and they are very dangerous, because hunger makes them ruthless predators that will even attack humans. Most often, such bears do not survive until spring due to a lack of food.

A bear's metabolic rate in winter is much lower than that of hedgehogs, whose body temperature sinks from 33°C to 2°C during hibernation. In hibernation, the bear's body temperature is reduced on average from 37°C to 31°C, which is why it recovers quickly and easily after awakening. Sometimes, even during hibernation, the animal's body temperature reaches normal values. When hibernating, the body feeds on the fat reserves accumulated the day before.

Some species spend part of their pregnancy in hibernation, in which case births occur immediately after coming out of hibernation. For example, polar bears do not hibernate every year, and they only hibernate for a few months. Most often it is done by pregnant females. The polar bear makes its hibernation on the mainland or islands. In addition to the brown bear, the Himalayan bear also hibernates, but it prefers to den at an altitude, in the hollows of old trees. But not all bear species hibernate, for example, the giant panda does not sleep at all.

Why does a bear suck its paw?

The funny opinion that a bear sucks its paw was formed for a reason. Only in fact, the bear licks its paws in its sleep. But it does it not from hunger, but because during the winter hibernation the skin on the bear's paws is renewed and peeling, and it simply reacts to the itching caused by this process.


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