5 Fascinating Facts About Hibernating Animals

Editor’s note: This Care2 favorite was originally posted on January 25, 2015. Enjoy!

Most people do not give much thought to the changing of seasons. Sometimes we shift our wardrobes to include seasonal clothing that is appropriate for the weather. Other times we may alter our eating habits to include holiday foods. Annual cold-weather related disorders are even known to plague us. However, it’ rare that our entire lives are uprooted and modified for the winter.

But animals that hibernate do exactly that. Their whole way of life is transformed into something completely new. Whether it be a creature that can altogether stop breathing and instead absorb oxygen in a novel way, or a critter that “hibernates” in a lighter sub-style of the process in order to recuperate only until awoken by possible danger, the concept of hibernation is simply fascinating.

While there are more than enough extraordinary facts about animals who hibernate to produce extensive literature on the topic, here are just five remarkable facts that will blow your mind.

1. Some hibernating animals can stop breathing and be perfectly fine.

Water reptiles and amphibians can do some extreme things in order to hibernate. For instance, frogs like the hibernating bullfrog breathe air in the summer so that when winter arrives, their bodies slow down and they can absorb oxygen through their skin without actually breathing. In fact, most of a pond’s reptiles and amphibians are able to absorb the oxygen that they need through their skin; some turtles do this as well.

2. Some animals have adapted their hibernation style to suit their survival needs.

Animals such as bears can go into an alternate, light hibernation state called a torpor. Torpor is like hibernation, but in this condition, the bear can be woken up easily. Unlike the deeper sleep during hibernation, animals who are in a torpor can be more aware of threats, making them superior survivors. Ground squirrels are also among animals who torpor, however they shift between hibernation, torpor and being awake.

3. Animal companions can lightly hibernate — and have even been mistaken for dead.

Hamsters are also animals who torpor. Hamster parents have mistaken their beloved pals to be deceased, only to witness their little balls of fur “come alive” again. The reason that hamsters go into light hibernation is due to the fact that there is a food and water source close by and readily available to them; they just wake up to dine, then resume their torpor. Sadly, hibernating hamsters can become tremendously startled if purposefully awoken from torpor, and some have even died of heart attacks.

4. An animal’s body can wake them for protection

Interestingly, the hedgehog whose heart rate drops by approximately 90 percent, can get too cold. If a hedgehog’s body temperature decreases to an unhealthy measure, it will wake up just enough so that the waking heart rate naturally warms it just right, then hibernation recommences. Hedgehogs also go into estivation during immensely warm weather, which is a hibernation that allows the animal to cool down before resuming normal activities.

5. Some animals treat hibernation like nature’s pause button.

The common poorwill is the only bird that goes into true hibernation. It hibernates during extreme temperatures — when it is either too hot or too cold — and at times of food scarcity. As a built-in survival technique, the animal can take a hiatus and increase chances of continuation. The common poorwill can even hibernate while they are incubating its eggs, proving to be not only a true survivor, but also a riveting multitasking animal.

Looks like nature has a pretty good handle on winter, doesn’t it?

Photo Credit: Denali National Park/Flickr


Leanne K
Leanne K2 days ago

Its an efficient way to deal with the extreme cold weather. Us humans just ravage the finite resources..

Sonia M

Interesting post thanks for sharing

Panchali Yapa
Panchali Yapa5 days ago

Thank you

Ramesh B
Ramesh B5 days ago

Thanks for sharing

Emma Z
Emma Z5 days ago


Cathy B
Cathy B5 days ago

Interesting. Thank you.

bob P
bob P6 days ago


Jessica C
Jessica C6 days ago


Debra Tate
Debra Tate6 days ago


Winn A
Winn A6 days ago