It’s Hibernation Time!
by | December 6th, 2013

zena-the-zookeeperHey Kids! Well, it’s about time for some of our animals here at the Zoo to get ready to go into torpor and hibernate for the winter months. When an animal goes into torpor, its heart rate and breathing slow way down, and it is in a state of deep rest.  Hibernation is a kind of torpor that happens when the weather gets cold.  Some animals go into such deep hibernation that they are very difficult to awaken.  These animals don’t eat or drink while they are hibernating.  Others are light hibernators who are still resting, but they are easy to awaken and may even wake themselves up to eat or go to the bathroom.  It’s kind of like they are taking long naps throughout the winter.  Some other animals go into torpor when the weather gets hot.  That kind of torpor is called estivation, but we’ll talk about that some other time.

I used to think that it had to be really cold and snowy for animals to hibernate, but then I found out that that isn’t true.  Even though it doesn’t get really, really cold here in the Bay Area, some of our animals still hibernate for a time during the winter months.  You may be surprised to find out which of our Zoo and Park animals hibernate. Here are just some of them:

  • Snailscollage
  • Bumble Bees
  • Ground Squirrels
  • Brown Bats
  • Raccoons
  • Hedgehogs
  • Skunks
  • Garter snakes
  • Sonoran Desert Toads
  • Box Turtles
  • Hermann’s Tortoises
  • Desert Tortoises
  • Chuckwallas
  • Gila Monsters
  • Desert Spiny Lizards
  • Alligators

So, were you surprised by any of these hibernators? I sure was!  Did it surprise you that our sun bears were not on the list?  Why do you think that might be?  And what about our lions?  Hmmm…that’s something to think about, isn’t it?

Luckily you can still come and see some of our light-hibernating friends throughout the winter, but once they go into torpor, some of our deep hibernators will be fast asleep and out of sight until Spring rolls around again.

Well, seems like there are lots of reasons to get out to the Zoo and visit us as the holiday fun begins.  Until next time, remember – conservation rocks!

Your friend,

Zena the Zookeeper

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