HIBERNATING ANIMALS IN ALASKA

Hibernation is an extended period of dormancy or sleep occurring during the colder parts of the year.  During hibernation, an animal’s temperature drops and the heart rate slows in order to preserve energy.  The animal typically does not eat during this phase, hence the need for preserving the fat stores in the body.

Alaska is home to several hibernating mammals.  The most well-known hibernating mammal is the bear.  Both grizzlies and black bear hibernate.  They eat voraciously during the fall to build up fat stores, which is especially important since both bear species have their young during hibernation and need enough nutrients to feed the babies.  Bears are not true hibernators in that they do not lose consciousness, but rather restrict their activity.  They can be easily roused and can very quickly respond to danger.

bears-hibernation  Hibernating mother black bear (Ursus americanus) with three-month old cub.,

The Arctic Ground Squirrel is another mammal that hibernates in the winter. Unlike the bear, the ground squirrel is a true hibernator, with a drastic reduction in body temperature, down to 27 degrees and a loss of consciousness.  You can see from the picture that a ground squirrel is not easily roused, taking several

hours to several days to awaken

Groundsquirrel_Held

The Alaskan Brown Bat is another hibernating mammal species. Brown bats weigh just 5 grams as adults.  They are also true hibernators, staying dormant throughout the winter.  They hibernate in large groups in caves and sometimes in abandoned mines.

winter-2014-environ-assess-Big-Brown-bats  hibernating animals

And, of course, another common hibernating mammal is the homo sapien.  As the weather gets colder, this species will stock up and gorge themselves on energy-rich foods such as doritoes, beer and popcorn, gradually inducing a semi-comatose state.  Unlike other hibernators, though, the homo sapien assumes this dormant state only on Saturdays and Sundays.

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