One of the strangest and most interesting facts about some animals is that they hibernate. It’s crazy to think that certain animals have the ability to survive some of the harshest weather conditions and circumstance by going into a deep sleep, don’t you think? While it may be difficult for many of us to get out of bed in the winter, we unfortunately do not have the luxury of opting to stay in the comfort and warmth of our bed for the duration of the winter.! Animals that hibernate, however, do have that choice.
So what exactly is hibernating and what is the purpose of it, you may wonder? When the environment becomes too hostile for certain animals, they are forced to adapt or find a way to cope. While some animals may migrate to warmer climates for the winter, others opt to stay in their natural environment and enter into an inactive state, or hibernation. Hibernation is a truly fascinating and clever survival mechanism and may cause you to have even more respect for some of the animals that hibernate on our list.
Below you will find a list of animals that hibernate, as well as a bit of information on their hibernation process. This list is far from exhaustive and most likely includes some animals that hibernate you are familiar with, and others that may surprise you.
This one probably doesn’t surprise you, but what may be news to you is that only four species of bear hibernate: American Black Bear, Asiatic Black Bear, Brown bear, and Polar bear. While bears don’t fall into a fully inactive state during hibernation, (their body temperature only drops a little bit and they can wake up whenever) they can go 100 days without eating or drinking!
The only true flying mammals, bats are another animal that hibernates that you may be familiar with and are some of the longest hibernators. In the wild, bats typically hibernate for 64-66 days and only wake up to drink. Incredibly, a bat held in captivity lasted an impressive 344 days in hibernation! During the hibernation stage bats are known to only take a breath every 2 hours and their heartbeat drops from 400 beats per minute to 25.
3. Box Turtles
The length of hibernation for box turtles depends on their location. Turtles located in the northern, colder climates of the United States may hibernate for 6 months, whereas those living in the warmer climates of Florida may not hibernate at all. During the inactive state, box turtles do not have to breathe in air at all (they take in oxygen through their skin) and their heart beat drops to once every 5-10 minutes.
While the males and worker bees die at the end of every summer, queen bees find an underground spot to hibernate through the winter. From a hole in the soil, to rotten tree stumps, to underneath leaves, queens stay inactive for 6-8 months. Once 6 or so months have passed, the queen bee re-emerges and finds a new place to build her nest for the next summer.
5. Wood Frogs
Hibernating wood frogs probably appear to be dead to the common eye; frozen, covered in ice crystals, no heartbeat, and not breathing. However, these frogs are definitely still alive, they are just in hibernation! Wood frogs typically look for a spot to hibernate inside logs or burrows, or under rocks and leaf piles. When warmer temperatures hit, they defrost and their lungs and heart get back into action. Pretty cool!
Some of the deepest hibernators in the world, hedgehogs typically sleep through the entire winter. With a significant drop in body temperature and breathe you can hardly see, these little guys are fast asleep for months. One of the neatest things about a hedgehog’s hibernation period is that if the temperatures drop too low, their body will recognize it and their heart beat picks up to produce more heat, waking them briefly.
7. Garter Snakes
When winter hits, garter snakes can be found grouped together in hibernation. Opposite of the queen bee who hibernates alone, sometimes hundreds or even thousands (a Canadian den reported more than 8,000 snakes hibernating together one year!) of garter snakes clump together for warmth. Once temperatures begin to warm, you will likely find these snakes basking in the sunlight after emerging from their winter homes.
8. Ground Squirrels
Ground squirrels typically hibernate for upwards of 9 months a year, and they may also go into a light hibernation (for just a few days at a time) during other times of the year. These animals that hibernate create great hibernation spaces by digging elaborate underground tunnels, equipped with different rooms for storage, sleep, and elimination.
Snails are one of the most unique animals that hibernate on our list. Not only do they hibernate in the winter to get away from the cold, but they can also hide from the hot summer months, a process known as estivation. Also unlike other animals on our list, snails go into their own shell during hibernation, closing up the hole with a skin made of chalk and slime to keep the moisture in. In some drier climates, snails have been known to hibernate for years!
10. Common Poorwills
The final animal that hibernates on our list is the common poorwill, the only species of bird that goes into true hibernation. While a handful of other birds go into light hibernation, common poorwills hibernate when the temperatures get really cold, really hot, or when they are having troubles finding food. A fun fact, these birds can even go into hibernation when incubating their eggs! Not only is this a way to pass the time while waiting for the chicks to hatch, but it helps protect them too.
Other common animals that hibernate include skunks, deer mice, hamsters, prairie dogs, and lemurs. From a deep hibernation that can last for most months of the year to light hibernation that only lasts for days, animals that hibernate are fascinating creatures with amazing survival tactics.