Cold weather and shorter days often mean spending more time indoors, choosing warmer clothing and, for those of us fortunate enough to travel year-round, migrating to warmer climes. The animals we watch face similar problems, and in some cases escape the cold in similar ways. Some migrate each year, while many grow a warmer coat. But some have another way to escape frigid temperatures and decreasing food supplies. They hibernate.
Hibernation can be difficult to define precisely; it’s not so much an extended sleep as the way an animal’s body reacts to the environment. An extreme drop in body temperature and metabolism lowers the energy requirements needed to sustain life. Sometimes this change extends over weeks or months, but it can also happen during a single night. (The word torpor is typically used for shorter periods of inactivity.) (Read the rest …)