5 Rocky Mountain Hibernators

rocky mountain hibernators

An adult grizzly bear with two cubs.

These 5 Rocky Mountain hibernators includes a combination of well known and lesser known animals.  I wonder if you know all of them?

This is my second of three posts where I talk about 5 different animals of the Rocky Mountains that share a winter survival strategy.   Migration, hibernation, and adaptation are the three main strategies animals choose to survive the cold winters of the Rockies.  The first group of animals were 5 migrators.  Now are the hibernators, and next will come 5 animals that adapt.

First – A Note About Hibernation

Hibernation is simply one of the many different ways that animals rest during winter.  The term hibernation is what most people think of when they think of any animals that ‘sleep’ all winter long.

However, there are actually several different types of ways that animals rest during the winter.  The general terms for animals that rest during winter is actually called dormancy.  Essentially, the different types of dormancy are based on how deep of a sleep the animals goes into.

Some animals stop all growth and development all winter long (true hibernators) and others go dormant at night and are active during the day.

rocky mountain hibernators5 Rocky Mountain Hibernators

Grizzly bear – The mighty and majestic Grizzly bear hibernates during the winter.  However, grizzly bears are not true hibernators.  Read this old post about what a true hibernator is.

This means that they do not ‘sleep’ all winter long.  Instead they go into a sleep like state, but they wake up sometimes in their winter den.  Females even wake up to give birth to their babies!

rocky mountain hibernators

A yellow bellied marmot is a hibernator.

Marmot – These tough little mammals are in fact true hibernators.  They lower their body temperature and heart rate, and then sleep for about 200 days a year!

Raccoon – These mammals are not true hibernators.  They will sleep a lot in their den, but when the weather is nicer they come out and are active.

Garter Snakes – Yes, the snakes in the Rocky Mountains go into a sleep like state that is called brumation.  They often gather in hibernaculums, where there can be many, many snakes together to stay warm.

rocky mountain hibernators

Some wasps, like this yellow jacket enter diapause.

Wasps – Some insects enter a state of dormancy during the winter during which they rest.  For insects this is called diapause and it differs slightly from hibernation.