The thick layer of snow started to melt following a few warmer days about ten days ago. Now, the temperature is very low again, but interestingly there was quite some bear activity all over the frozen forests.

The most famous hibernator, the bear, actually doesn’t fully hibernate. While denning, the bears heart rate, breathing rate, and its metabolic rate slows down and its body temperature is reduced by ca. 10 degrees. Like this, bears can go for more than 100 days without eating, drinking, or passing any waste. However, true hibernators reduce their body temperature to near freezing, a slow breathing and heart rate, and most important, a low metabolic rate. True hibernators awaken very slowly during these periods, whereas a bear can awake very easy. For this reason, scientists debate whether bears are true hibernators or perform only “winter lethargy”.

Nevertheless, it is uncommon for bears to spend extended periods outside their dens during the peak of winter. A bear can wake up and interrupt hibernation if it gets low on fat reserves, but as autumn was a very good mast year for beechnuts, the bears’ condition should be pretty good. For this reason, it was interesting to see that this January, a fair number of bears have left tracks wandering around.

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