Animal Hibernation


We’ve got it easy during the winter. When we get cold, we put on more clothing, build a fire, turn up the heat, or make some hot cocoa. We have a pantry and a fridge stocked with food and when that runs out, we go to the store.

Life’s not so easy for animals. During cold weather, staying warm and fed becomes a major problem. For most animals, the choice is to migrate to a warmer area or hunker down.


Fun Facts

  • Hibernation is not the same as sleeping. During hibernation, an animal’s body temperature and heart rate go way down. The animal doesn’t eat and might not poo or pee. It’s almost like the animal is in a coma. Waking up from hibernation takes a while.
  • Wood chucks, bats, hedgehogs, and ground squirrels stay in a state of deep hibernation most of the winter.
  • Other animals, such as bears, raccoons, and skunks, are light hibernators. They go to sleep during the winter but might wake up several times, coming out to look for food. Mother bears are up a lot taking care of new cubs.
  • Some insects, such as ladybugs, hide under leaves or in tree bark and go into a deep sleep. Snails curl into their shells and cover the opening with slime. In drought conditions, they can hibernate for years.
  • Amphibians and reptiles often go into a state of sleep too. Snakes often wake up and emerge from underground in the winter if temperatures rise.



  1. Hibernation: a period of dormancy when the body undergoes major changes
  2. Dormant: inactive

Questions and Answers

Question: Why don’t dogs or cats hibernate?

Answer: These animals don’t need to hibernate because they have you to provide food and protection from the cold.

Learn More

Visit National Geographic to find out how animals get ready for hibernation.