Hibernation is common for not only warm-blooded mammals but cold-blooded animals as well! Both types of living creatures undergo some type of dormancy and need to prepare in order to do so. We’ve compiled a list of 25 fascinating creatures that hibernate year in and year out. Incorporate the below lessons into your Winter curriculum to get your learners’ little minds turning and tuned in to what’s happening in the animal world around them.
These garden gastropods do not like the warmer months because the heat tends to dry out their skin. Therefore, snails burrow underground for short bouts of Summer hibernation on especially hot days. This helps to maintain their mucus layer.
Learn More: Country Living
2. Lady Bugs
Similar to snails, ladybugs also experience hibernation during the Summer. The hot weather dries out aphids, which are the ladybug’s main food source. Once the rain comes back, ladybugs have access to food and are active again.
Learn More: Country Living
3. Arctic Ground Squirrels
Not to be confused with tree squirrels, these ground squirrels will spend up to eight Winter months in hibernation. During their underground burrow, the squirrels will come out periodically to move, eat, and rewarm themselves.
Learn More: Alaska.gov
4. Fat-Tailed Dwarf Lemur
These cute tropical mammals of Madagascar have a hibernation period lasting anywhere from three to seven months. During hibernation, they experience changes in body temperature. This results in periodic arousals to rewarm themselves.
Learn More: Smithsonian Magazine or the Lemur Center
5. Ice Crawler
Since the Ice Crawler is a cold-blooded ectotherm, it technically does not hibernate. Instead, its Winter rest is called brumation, or diapause, because they venture about on slightly warmer Winter days to absorb heat under the hot sun.
Learn More: University of Texas
6. Box Turtles
Wouldn’t this guy make a cool pet? The box turtle will brumate during its dormant period by finding a new home under loose soil. Here is a fun fact: these guys are able to live through short bouts of freezing temperatures that cause their organs to ice over!
Learn More: Mass Audubon
7. Brown Bears
Here is the most epic and well-known mammalian hibernator. These hibernators are most commonly seen in Alaska and Yellowstone National Park. However, you will not be able to see them during the cold months of October, November, and December while they are sleeping.
Learn More: National Park Service
8. Black Bears
Did you know that these sharp-clawed black bears can go many months without excreting any bodily fluids? Talk about being a camel! Fun fact: female bears hibernate longer than their male counterparts because the Winter months are when they give birth.
Learn More: FLLT.org
9. Garter Snakes
While there are many types of mild venom snakes that hibernate, the garter snake is one that stands out. From October all the way to April, these guys like to go underground to avoid the cold months and shed a layer of skin.
Learn More: Dickinson Country Conservation Board
10. Queen Bumblebees
I always knew there was a “Queen Bee”, but I did not realize there was also a distinction between worker bees and male bees. Queen bees nest in the Spring before hibernating for nine months. During this time, they leave the workers and males to perish.
Learn More: Bumblebee Conservation Trust
Do you have a compost heap, or compost bin, set up in your backyard? If so, frogs and other reptiles may be using it as a safe haven for their Winter hibernation. When you go to use that gardener’s gold in the Spring, be gentle on these little guys!
Learn More: Frog Life
12. Pygmy Possum
The Pygmy Possum is an Australian animal that will hibernate for an entire year! This is the longest hibernation known to man, and that must be why those solid black eyes are so enormous! Imagine your eyes being so well-rested for that long.
Learn More: Australian Geographic
13. Short Beaked Echidna
The Short Beaked Echidna experiences a decline in body temperature while in hibernation. Their body temperature drops to become one with the soil so they can effectively mold with the earth from February all the way to May.
Learn More: Australian Geographic
14. Common Poorwill
These human-shy animals stock up on their food supply before the seasonal lack of food ensues. The Common Poorwill is a Western United States bird that is able to slow down its breathing and drop its heart rate as it enters torpor.
Learn More: Audubon
Did you know that bats are the only mammals that can fly? That’s right! Birds are avians, not mammals, so they do not count. A bat in hibernation is actually called its torpor. They will stay in torpor for about seven months, or until insects come back for them to eat.
Learn More: North American Nature
The state of Connecticut has two animals that hibernate, and this is one of them. Before their Winter hibernation, these soft-bodied creatures make sure they have sufficient food to maintain a normal body temperature through the Winter.
Learn More: Earth Place
There is some argument about squirrels and chipmunks being one and the same, and that is true! Chipmunks are really just very small squirrels. This member of the squirrel family may appear dead when they are actually just sleeping soundly.
Learn More: NWF.org
18. Jumping Mice
The Jumping Mouse will spend six months underground. As this animal burrows under frozen soil, they slow their breathing rate, making them need less oxygen. Their very long tail acts as a fat reserve to keep them alive in the cold weather.
Learn More: Adirondack Almanack
Butterflies are everyone’s favorite insect. There is a short time when they, and moths, are not active. Becoming inactive is not exactly hibernation, but rather dormancy. This allows them to survive the extreme cold.
Learn More: Butterfly Conservation
20. Tawny Frogmouth
Another animal that undergoes torpor, similar to bats, is the Tawny Frogmouth. When the sun comes out and the air is warmer, these large birds will come out to eat. Since a hibernating animal primarily relies on stored body fat rather than snacking, this bird enters torpor instead.
Learn More: Science.org
If you decide to put food out for your neighborhood hedgehog, be sure to slowly decrease the amount you are feeding them rather than suddenly stopping. This is because they might still need your help to fatten up until their winter hibernation begins.
Learn More: Hedge Hog Street
22. The Hazel Dormouse
Rather than going underground like many other hibernators, the Hazel Dormouse enters its period of inactivity on the ground surrounded by leaves. Their tail is just as long as their bodies and they use them to wrap around their heads for safety in case they are stepped on.
Learn More: Woodland Trust
23. Prairie Dogs
Prairie Dogs are very vocal animals, especially when a dangerous animal is nearby. They build underground tunnels to live with their coteries (families) and eat plants. Their period of hibernation involves snippets of torpor sleep underground.
Learn More: Tumbleweeds Magazine
24. Alpine Marmots
The Alpine Marmot prefers to dig a home under the soil when cold temperatures begin. These burrowing herbivores will spend nine whole months in hibernation! They depend on their extremely thick fur to keep them warm.
Learn More: Animalia
Like many of the above-mentioned animals, skunks can extend periods of sleep without actually hibernating. Skunks undergo a Winter slow-down time that keeps them sleeping through the coldest climates. This is why you rarely smell skunks during the winter!
Learn More: NY State Parks