Study Reveals Secrets of Bear Hibernation

Feb 17, 2011
Outside Magazine

Black Bear
Five to seven months without eating, drinking, urinating or defecating. It's not a punishment, it's hibernation, and bears do it every winter. Until now, however, little was known about the physiological changes that allow a bear to survive hibernation.

A study released today by researchers at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks, sheds some light on how bears manage to avoid starvation and muscle atrophy while hibernating, according to ScienceNOW. Researchers studied five hibernating bears for five winter months in a near-natural environment, meaning that each bear was given an artificial den in the forest and fitted with a sensor to record their temperature and hear rate.

The results of the study may contribute to emergency medical care by helping scientists understand how lowering the metabolic needs of a patient may extend the "golden hour," the hour after trauma when medical treatment is most effective.

--Will Grant

Photo courtesy of Flickr

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