Equal Parts Sleeping and Eating
A Year in the Life of a Bear
Arizona Western College
Every year during the foodless winter months, bears enter their den and lapse into a state of extended dormancy and slumber (called hibernation). For the next 130+ consecutive days they do not drink, eat, defecate, or urinate. Rarely do they die from starvation, dehydration, or poisoning from waste buildup while hibernating. How do bears prepare for this period of starvation coupled with significant weight loss? Bears are not only the champions of winter rest, but are also the undisputed champions of non-stop summer eating. They are constantly on the move during late spring and all summer long into late autumn oftentimes covering great distances over diverse habitats in their incessant search for locally and seasonally available food. In this case study, students learn the basics about bear denning, hibernation energetics, the differences in size of bear home ranges, and the nutritional landscape they must navigate to prepare for the long months of winter inactivity and caloric deprivation. The case is suitable for a wide audience, including majors or non-majors in lower- or upper-level undergraduate courses in environmental science, ecology, biology, or wildlife science.
- Identify environmental and biological factors that “trigger” a bear to enter and emerge from their winter den.
- Discuss basic metabolic and physiological adjustments during hibernation needed for bears to survive a cold, foodless winter.
- Analyze data related to the differences in size of bears’ home ranges.
- Learn about bears’ dietary habits and nutritional ecology.
KeywordsBlack bears; grizzly bears; metabolism; Yellowstone; brown bears; hibernation; wildlife; energetics; bears; denning; home range; caloric deprivation
Educational LevelUndergraduate lower division, Undergraduate upper division
Type / MethodsDiscussion, Interrupted
Subject HeadingsEcology | Environmental Science | Interdisciplinary Sciences | Wildlife Management |
Case teaching notes are password-protected and access to them is limited to paid subscribed instructors. To become a paid subscriber, begin the process by registering.
Teaching notes are intended to help teachers select and adopt a case. They typically include a summary of the case, teaching objectives, information about the intended audience, details about how the case may be taught, and a list of references and resources.