Everyone knows bears and hedgehogs hibernate, but did you know that snakes, snails, frogs, turtles, bats, bees and a menagerie of other animals also find that hunkering down through the winter is a lot easier than migrating thousands of miles to some place warmer. Here are a few other facts about hibernation that may inspire you to grab a cozy comforter and at least huddle near your fireplace with a cup of hot cocoa. Too bad for you though, unlike the bear and the hedgie, you will have to get up tomorrow morning and face the day, no matter how cold!
1. Some hibernating animals will wake up for short spurts during the winter months to eat and relieve themselves. Other animals sleep through the entire winter without doing either.
2. European hedgehogs are deep winter sleepers and usually go through the entire winter without waking. By all outward appearances you would think a hibernating hedgie was dead - their feet, ears, and skin are all cold to the touch and their breathing is almost undetectable. Normally, a hedgehog's heart races at a frantic 190 beats per minute, but during hibernation it slows to about 20 beats per minute. When outdoor winter temperatures fluctuate, a hedgehog's heart will just beat a little faster to generate more internal heat or slow down to save energy. Outwardly, the hedgehog will feel cold, but inside it's heart is toasty warm.
3. In preparation for winter's deep sleep, a black bear can gain up to 30 pounds a week. I'm sure many humans are glad they don't do that!
4. Animals in hibernation do have internal controls that prevent their core body temperature from falling dangerously low. The animal will awake if their internal alarm goes off warning that their temperature is too close to freezing. That must be a rude awakening, indeed.
5. Snails are built for self-contained hibernating. They burrow underground and withdraw into their shell. But before falling into a deep winter sleep, they seal their door with a chalky, slimy excretion that hardens and locks in essential moisture. A small air hole allows oxygen to enter, but still keeps predators out. In this hibernation mode, they use almost no energy and require no food to live. Some snails use this same technique to survive extended drought periods.