On December 1st, 2018, Grinder and Coola, our two resident Grizzly Bears, entered their 18th hibernation period on Grouse Mountain. The bears had been growing sluggish for the last couple weeks and their appetites had reduced to next to nothing. This was a sure sign that hibernation was close! Once we started to receive our first snowfall and the days grew increasingly short for daylight and temperatures dropped below zero it was the last few things neeeded and 'hibernation' began.
We put hibernation in quotations because what the bears are really doing is technically not hibernation and has instead become referred to as winter dormancy. True hibernators lower their heart rate and body temperatures to extremes and go months without moving in this state. Grizzly Bears will lower their heart rate and body temperatures but not nearly as much and will remain active throughout the winter dormancy period. They partake in activities such as stretching, bed making, grooming or even small sleep walks around and outside of the den. It is thought that this activity keeps their bones and muscles strong enough to survive the winter without the bears needed any serious physio therapy in the spring time before they emerge. Grouse Mountain played a role in learning more about grizzly bear hibernation when we first installed cameras to monitor Grinder and Coola back in 2001/2002. It was a surprise to many just how active they are.
You can follow along with Grinder and Coola's winter dormancy by viewing them on our live Grizzly Bear Camera
and watching for the behaviors noted above. The camera feed may look bright but inside the den it is pitch black and what we are seeing is infrared light emitted from two transmitters in the wall of the den and this allows the camera to 'see'. To the bears, however, it is dark inside.
A neat option is to choose the daily time-lapse feed from the upper right corner menu - this will allow you to see a day of their dormancy in fast speed!
We'll update you as the dormancy continues but hope you follow along with the camera as well.