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Do Bears Really Hibernate?

Black bear cub playing on pile of woodAs the weather begins to cool off outside we here in the Great Smoky Mountains are preparing to wave goodbye to our favorite mountain mammals as they begin their long naps until spring. We typically hear of bears around this time of year finding a nice warm cave to curl up during the winter, but with the weather in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park being a bit warmer than other parts of the country we find ourselves wondering whether or not our bears really sleep off winter.

The short answer to this question is yes. Like their northern cousins, the black bears in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park rest up during the cooler times of year due to cold temperatures and sparse food options. The big difference between the two different regions is that the southern bears do not hibernate as long as the northern bears. Up north the bears can sleep up to 8 months at a time during hibernation! Please keep in mind though, bears are very easily wakened while hibernating, so if you encounter a bear in the park that is sleeping still exercise the same extreme caution you would in the warmer months.

Another fun fact about bears hibernating during the winter in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, is that female bears will actually give birth to their baby cubs during the hibernation period. After that, she will stay in the den with the cubs until spring comes back around. The perk of doing this is that by the time spring returns the cubs are already able to walk and find food on their own.

Want to find out more interesting facts about the Great Smoky Mountains National Park? Be sure to check out our page dedicated to all things Smoky Mountains under the GSM National Park page on our website. There you will find information on all the best picnicking spots, wildlife viewing areas, beautiful waterfalls, horseback riding stables, auto tours and more. See you in the Smokies!