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Out of Torpor and into Spring
March 27, 2023

The signs of spring are here. Flowers are blooming. Trees are green, and the weather is warmer. At Northwest Trek Wildlife Park, we also have another sign to celebrate. Our black bears and grizzlies begin to emerge from torpor and let us know spring is indeed here!

Two bears at Northwest Trek

What is Torpor?

We visited Keeper Haley to get the details. Torpor is a form of hibernation. True hibernation means an animal’s body shuts down and it goes dormant. An example is some species of frogs and bats; they have no activity in the winter.

Torpor is a reduction in activity. It comes with reduced metabolic, respiratory, and heart rates. The animals are conserving energy in all forms since resources (like food) are low in the winter. Leading up to torpor, you’ll see bears eating increased amounts to store in their body in preparation for winter.

Grizzly bear at Northwest Trek exploring its exhibit

What Torpor Means for Our Bears

Our grizzlies and black bears have unique personalities that show through in their torpor methods. Fern, a female black bear, prefers to go into her underground, bear-made den for the majority of the time. She will still come out occasionally but doesn’t take any food offered and prefers to be unbothered. Her brother, Benton, prefers the manmade dens. He enjoys sleeping on his straw-covered heated floors and resting comfortably in his bed. He will also occasionally wander over and check to see if Fern is still in her den.

Grizzly bear facing the camera at Northwest Trek

The grizzlies prefer their manmade dens. They’re young and still learning to master denning. Hawthorne and Huckleberry grew up together as rescued cubs from different mothers. Since then, they have gone into torpor similarly. They begin taking in less food around December and stay in their manmade dens until February.

Spring is Here!

Now that all the signs of spring are present, be sure to stop by Northwest Trek to see the bears. You may find one of the grizzlies flipping stumps around the habitat. Or you’ll catch Benton keeping an eye on what Fern is doing.