Photo: Mari Lehmonen (2023)


Korkeasaari Zoo in Helsinki, Finland, welcomed the awakening of its two female bears from their three-month hibernation on Friday. The 22 and 17-year-old bears, who had retreated to their winter dens in early November, emerged to a snowy outdoor enclosure full of excitement and curiosity.

The overnight snowfall inspired the bears to play, as they cautiously stepped out of their dens and took running steps on the snow.

The bears also enjoyed scratching their thick winter fur on trees, snow, and an enrichment swing. They even slid down snowy hills and searched for treats buried under the snow, with freshly dug grass being a particular favorite.

According to the zookeepers, the bears slept exceptionally well during their hibernation, not waking up once during their long slumber. They greeted their caretakers with alertness and hunger, devouring all the fruits and vegetables offered to them. The bears lost approximately 50 kilograms of weight during the winter, about a quarter of their body weight.

Despite their renewed energy, the bears still have the option to nap in their dens during the day if they feel tired. However, due to their lighter diet, the bears tend to become less active as the day progresses, and they move inside by mid-afternoon during the first week of their awakening.

Last winter, the bears' hibernation was interrupted in December when a broken water pipe soaked their den. This year, the bears didn't use that den at all, opting for a new one instead. In recent years, the Korkeasaari bears have typically emerged from their hibernation in February.

Bears' hibernation is a remarkable physiological adaptation that enables them to survive the harsh winter months when food is scarce. During hibernation, a bear's heart rate and body temperature slow down significantly, allowing it to conserve energy. Despite their extended rest, bears are not entirely dormant during hibernation, and they can wake up periodically to move around, change position, or even give birth.

In conclusion, the awakening of the Korkeasaari bears is a welcomed sign of the arrival of spring, marking the end of their hibernation and the start of a new year of exploration and play. The bears' ability to hibernate is an impressive feat of nature, allowing them to survive the winter months and emerge healthy and ready for a new season.
Videos of the bears can be viewed here.