Do Polar Bears Hibernate | Polar Bear Hibernation

Do polar bears hibernate? Not exactly, as true hibernators do not experience an obvious drop in their heartbeat and body temperature. Polar bears undergo a deep state of walking hibernation during which the metabolism slows down. One of the distinctive traits of polar bears is that only the pregnant females tend to hibernate for longer periods of time. This behavior is not observed in grizzly bears which, being the other contenders, display different characteristics. While there are too dark and coldest nights in the arctic regions, grizzly bears are nowhere to be seen as they hibernate inside their dens. However, polar bears do come out on the sea ice endeavoring to find out food for their survival. Hibernation is a usual adaptation employed by several mammals to get rid of inclement weather and food scarcity, but many polar bears do not, suggesting enough food is obtainable and that the frosty conditions are not a problem.

It’s the reduced physical and physiological activity that characterizes hibernation in mammals. Some of the most common hallmarks of hibernation include lower metabolic rate, low body temperature, and slowed respiration and heartbeat. According to some researchers, hibernation is the most refined response by mammals to the food scarcity. Pregnant polar bears can stay in this dormant condition for eight months; during this time they do not eat, urinate, defecate, or drink.

Do Polar Bears Hibernate

The low metabolism rate is vital for the pregnant females to conserve energy. Polar bears do not go into deep hibernation and few researchers use the term’ dormancy’ to explain the dormant state. During hibernation, the body temperature of polar bears fairly drops from the usual temperature of 98.6 degree Fahrenheit. As far as the heartbeat is concerned, it also drops from 40 – 27 beats per minute; and the respiratory rates also drop down clearly.

do polar bears hibernate - Two Polar Bears Play-fight in Churchill, Canada

Two Polar Bears Play-fight in Churchill, Canada
Image Courtesy of Steve Bloom / Barcroft Media

How Do Polar Bears Hibernate?

Hibernation is not a behavior that is commonly observed in arctic mammals. Ground squirrels go into deep hibernation and undergo significant decrease in heartbeat, respiratory rate, and breathing. Polar bears do not drop their body temperature too low since it would require a considerable amount of energy to bring the temperature to a normal level. These bears tend to diminish their energy use by sixty percent in contrast to the usual activity. Thanks to hibernation, it allows polar bears to get rid of harsh environmental conditions and is a vital means of conserving energy but is primarily reserved for reproduction in polar bears.

Apart from polar bears, American black bears and grizzly bears also share four physiological states; these are walking hibernation, hyperphagia, usual activity, and hibernation. The adaptations of hibernating polar bears present certain consequences for human medicine in areas like kidney disease, obesity, and osteoporosis.

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