DEEP After Cub Killed on I-84: Hibernation is Not a Bear Necessity

One was found on the side of the highway in Tolland on Thursday.

A young bear on the I-84 shoulder on Thursday. Photo Credit: Chris Dehnel
A young bear on the I-84 shoulder on Thursday. Photo Credit: Chris Dehnel
A young bear has been killed on Interstate 84 in Tolland.

It could be seen on the eastbound shoulder on Thursday morning between exits 67 and 68. 

Was it an unfortunate coincidence or the wacky weather messing up the bear's seasonal habits?

The former, a spokesman for the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection said. 

"It's just a bad coincidence. It is not uncommon to see bears out and about during the winter," DEEP spokesman Dwayne Gardner said Thursday morning. "They don't actually hibernate in the pure scientific term of the word — they just sleep a lot. They do come out from time to time to look for food."

So drivers could therefore encounter them, even in January.
Here are a couple of interesting winter bear facts, courtesy of the DEEP: 

  • Bears don't hibernate. While it is true that they find a den, such as a hollow tree or rock shelter, and spend most of the winter sleeping there, they may leave the den to look for food. In fact, bears can awaken from their winter sleep almost immediately. 
  • Compared to true hibernators, like ground squirrels, a bear's metabolic rate is significantly less depressed and a bear's body temperature is reduced only a little. For example, a ground squirrel's body temperature during hibernation is reduced to near-freezing. Bears only reduce their body temperatures by about 10 degrees or so. Moreover, ground squirrels have to awaken about every week for about a day, eat stored food, pass waste, and then return to hibernation. They continue this cycle all winter. Bears don't do this. 


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