Back by popular demand–Do Beavers Hibernate and Other Important Questions

Dear Lake Superior Spirit readers,

 I know you’ve been wondering.  You’ve been asking yourself for days–weeks, even–“Do beavers hibernate?”  Since I have answered this question before on my firstborn WordPress blog, Opening the Door, Walking Outside, and it’s been Googled repeatedly (like I’m an Authority) it’s time to do a Repeat Performance of this Important Question. The post is re-blogged here, almost in its original wording, but with different exciting & interesting photographs. Read carefully.  As always, there will be a Quiz.

Beaver den in winter

Just think how many things we don’t know about nature.

For example, I just had to Google the Question “Do beavers hibernate?”

You would think someone who lives in the North Woods would know the answer to this question.  I thought I knew; maybe, perhaps, yes they do, no they don’t, let’s just get it over with and Google.

Google pointed its wise finger to several websites which provided the definitive answer:  You Silly Questioner.  Of course beavers do not hibernate.  Don’t you know they eat the inner bark of trees during the winter?  Don’t you know that because the surface of their ponds may freeze solid, making it difficult to get trees, the beaver will chew down extra ones for an underwater food cache located near the den or lodge?  Don’t you know that?

Beaver in springtime

So now you’re wondering about otter, I suppose.  You want to know if otter hibernate.  I am here to tell you “Facts you Otter Know“.  They are definitively active all year-round. Cold weather does not inhibit their behavior.  In fact the author of the hyperlinked article insists that the otter loves ice and snow.  You otter know that.

Bears hibernate.  You knew that, right?  Well, I am going to rock your world view, because some scientists disagree that bears actually hibernate in the same way as other animals.  That’s because they wake up frequently and their metabolism does not slow to nearly the same degree as, say, a possum or badger.  Why some mama bears even give birth during the winter, requiring a degree of alertness to care for the new cubs.  These scientists prefer to call this behavior denning rather than hibernating.  (It IS amazing what a Google search will teach you.)

This bear "dens" right now. He does not hibernate, contrary to public belief.

Another source just revealed that bears and raccoons torpor during the winter.  This source said that the raccoons sometimes go out to hunt before returning to their torpor-like state.  My husband can verify that.  He caught a big lake trout ice fishing and was saving the carcass in the snow and the raccoons stole it in the winter.

This raccoon baby is torpors today.

Here is a partial list of animals hibernating around here this very minute according to wisegeek: chipmunks, ground squirrels (I beg to differ.  A red squirrel climbed the exterior wall, sat on the window and peered inside while I ‘denned’ at the computer this afternoon), hamsters (not any hamsters in these woods unless they escaped from someone’s house), skunks, bats, and badgers.

Let us not forget our non-mammal friends, either.  The snakes that scared you last summer are sound asleep in a coma-like hibernation.  When we bring in our wood from the wood pile to wood room, we find shedded snake skins everywhere.  Sometimes we hang them up for decorations in the wood room.  I kid you not.  Back to our hibernation discussion.  Here are some more non-mammals:  lizards, frogs, toads, turtles and bees are all hibernating.

Frogs are hibernating...sleep tight, dear frogs...

One bird, the Western Poor Will, is considered a hibernating bird.  I can tell you what birds do NOT hibernate.  The chickadees, nuthatches, finches, blue jays, woodpeckers and juncos have all been seen near the bird feeder already this winter.  They are hard to photograph.  They flutter and swoop and dive so quickly all you can capture is a blurry whirr of wings.

The chickadees at Catherine’s house yesterday were more relaxed.  You can see the non-hibernating bird here:

You just saw this chickadee photo on my blog the other day. But since I needed another chickadee photo...

Oh yes.  I would also like to add that I did not hibernate today.  Barry had to go to the Trading Post, so I hitched a ride.  Then he dropped me off about a mile or more from our house and I walked home.  It was cold, but not freezing cold.  Snowy, but not too snowy.  The only non-hibernating animals spotted were ravens lunching on a deer carcass.  (I decided to spare you the deer carcass photo.)

Beaver dam in spring

(Dear reader, this blog was originally published on December 6th, 2009.  You can peruse the initial blog, followed by this one, very, very carefully to see what I changed.

Here is your quiz.  Don’t you dare peek back to check the answer!  That would be cheating.  Only I can peek back to find the answers.  1.  What do beavers eat during the winter?  Do badgers hibernate or torpor?  What are the bees doing now?)

You didn’t expect to go back to school today, did you?   🙂

P.S.  It’s a joke about the “Back by popular demand”.  Don’t we wish?

About Kathy

I live in the middle of the woods in Michigan's Upper Peninsula. Next to Lake Superior's cold shores. I love to blog.
This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

27 Responses to Back by popular demand–Do Beavers Hibernate and Other Important Questions

  1. Elisa's Spot says:

    inner bits of trees, hibernate, hibernate

  2. flandrumhill says:

    Red squirrels don’t hibernate because they are not ground squirrels. They’re of the arboreal variety 🙂 I don’t hibernate either, though denning sounds like a pretty good idea if you don’t have little ones around to give you too much to do. No wonder mother bears are often considered growly and cranky.

    Kathy, your new photo additions are all so lovely. The raccoon one reminded me of the sweet little raccoons you had found a while back. Your shots of them were priceless. I wish the ones around here spent more time torporing than trying to get into my garbage.

  3. I can’t answer your questions. I’m too busy hibernating.

  4. Kathy – I’m not going to LIE to you about my CHEATING. Elisa was the first to class and I saw her answers: “inner bits of trees, hibernate, hibernate.”

    The raccoon photo is my favorite!

  5. Brenda Hardie says:

    oh my..I can’t answer your questions either…can’t get the picture out of my head of snake skins hanging in your wood room…ewwwww! It would be bad enough to find them all over in the wood pile but to display them too! lol…and I dream about living in the northwoods…makes you laugh…I know, I can hear the knowing snicker. 😀 Ok, I’ll give it a try…your questions…beavers eat the insides of trees during the winter and they keep an underwater cache of logs to snack on because the ice is frozen around there beaver dam. And the badger and the bee are both hibernating……did I answer correctly? Do I get a star? Or did I fail? ??
    I vaguely remember reading this in your opening the door and walking outside blog so I will for sure go back and read it again…a bit later though. Because I know once I start I won’t want to stop….that’s how it is for me when I read that blog of yours 🙂
    Thank you for more lovely pictures Kathy….the ones you post and the ones you make possible in the imagination….(well except for the displayed snake skins) lol
    Have a great day my friend ♥

  6. I’d love to hibernate now myself. Is that allowed?
    Hugs,
    Kathy

  7. Heather says:

    I’m surprised they stay hibernating/torporing/denning in this crazy weather we’ve called winter. A week ago down in southern Ohio, my parents’ old maples were budded out. They are not hibernating any longer, though I suspect it’ll be a late leaf year, as their temperatures were colder than ours the past couple of days.
    Nice wildlife photos – I hope you weren’t too near that bear!

  8. Sybil says:

    What ? What was the question again ?

  9. Sybil says:

    Darn. The comment I just posted, included witty things like (snore) (snort) and (zzzz) but since those additions were set within sideways triangular html-ish brackets, they were edited out. Just wanted to reassure you that I have not stopped leaving wise-ass comments ….

  10. Lynne Kovan says:

    Sorry I just woke up………Missed the fun!

  11. Why are these people leaving the answers to the questions where everyone can cheat by reading them??….tsk, tsk….there has to be a solution for giving a quiz to your readers where we can’t cheat off each other.

    I am going to take my mouse and go home sulking about not being the first to answer and be the star pupil!

  12. Dana says:

    I learned everything I need to know about beavers at the IMAX theatre last year. Did you know that a solitary beaver couple can fell around 400 trees every year? And that beavers make noises that make them sound like pouting children? They’re really quite fascinating!

    Thank you for enlightening us on all the other animals, too. I’ll be ready when a random stranger questions me about the winter lifestyles of badgers and bees.

  13. Martha Bergin says:

    Do cub scouts den during the winter?

  14. Marianne says:

    Oh my gosh, Kathy. That bear could be someone I know. It looks quite human. At least, that’s what I think (hehehe). The squirrels that live around here haven’t hibernated this winter. The gentleman who lives above me feeds them, so I see them crawling up the wall upteen times a day for the food he leaves on his balcony. We have quite the squirrel population in these parts. Haven’t seen any bears yet, although one time when my son was a young lad he sat on the couch beside my dad, proceeded to stroke his arm and said, “You’ve got a lot of fur, Grandpa.”

  15. LOVE your stories and photos, keep em coming!

  16. Barb says:

    I’m in a torpor myself – but, I came by to report that it’s snowing here. I definitely will not hibernate tomorrow! Happy Valentine’s Day, Kathy!

  17. Kala says:

    I love these nature images and your descriptions.

  18. Claire says:

    I do not hibernate either however all this is interesting and informative so thanks for the education and the pictures.

  19. Kathy says:

    I am glad everyone enjoyed our foray into wild animal Nature Education on this blog. Bless all of you who are hibernating, denning, and torporing. Also, bless those of you who are more active during these winter months, including those two-leggeds who ski or snowshoe. I always love reading your comments. Congratulations to those who got the quiz right–and who DIDN’T cheat. You get a purple star on your paper and an opportunity to sleep through half of winter. 😉

  20. ....RaeDi says:

    I would love to hibernate right now, loved the post and the pictures!

  21. Kathy says:

    It figures that a hummingbird-lover would appreciate beavers, too, RaeDi. Aren’t we so lucky to be surrounded by wildlife?

    • Kathy says:

      We were shocked to see it! Unfortunately, it was raiding a garbage bag near a lakeside park. It was almost dusk, so it was hard to capture the photo. Thank you.

  22. jane tims says:

    Hi Kathy. Thanks for visiting my blog. I know the raccoons are sleeping right now, because they have not been back to annoy the feeders since December. The little flying squirrels who visted all November are also gone, likely also sleeping. I didn’t know the word ‘torpor’ before! jane

    • Kathy says:

      I love flying squirrels. We hardly ever see them here, Jane. You are lucky that you get to see them. I didn’t know about the word “torpor” before researching this, either. It makes sense. And now I love to use the word!

Although I don't reply to every comment on every blog, I do read all comments with mesmerized interest and try to return the favor by visiting YOUR blog or at least sending you heartfelt well wishes.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s