Question Of The Day: Do Bears Poop While They’re Hibernating?

Starting in the fall in many parts of North America where food becomes scarce, many bears will hibernate for 3–8 months until the spring thaw. Bears begin to make their dens in caves or in the hollowed out trunk of a tree around September and October to prepare for their winter slumber. During their hibernation, bears conserve energy by lowering their heart rate from 40–50 beats per minute to 8 beats per minute, decreasing their breathing from up to 10 breaths per minute to one breath every 45 seconds, and by keeping warm by sleeping in a ball surrounded by leaves. Despite not eating, bears still need about 4,000 calories a day. To get all that sustenance, they draw precious nutrients from entirely within their own bodies. They get calories and water from fat tissues and grab protein from muscle and organ tissues. Bears are not true hibernators, meaningly if they get dehydrated they may awake to drink water or eat snow. But for the most part, during their hibernation, they do not eat, drink, pee or poop. No shit? No shit. You can’t even hold a liquidy shit for a 17-minute ride to Applebee’s. Imagine having to hold your dookie for 8 months.

How bears say “no” to #2 is remarkable. Their bodies form a special intestinal plug, appropriately called a “fecal plug.” Let’s see your Snapple cap provide you with pearls of wisdom such as this. Think of it like the cork on a Patron bottle. Much of the fecal plug is made of hair that the bear ingests while licking its coat (You can see one here, but I don’t recommend). Once the bears start eating they will ironically push out the fecal plug with fecal matter. Fun Fact: Fecal plugs can grow to about 7-15 inches long and up to 2-and-a-half inches in diameter. That must be an absolute joy to shit out.

Now the mystery of bear shits has been solved. You know that bears don’t pinch one off during hibernation. Now go impress your friends and family with this precious knowledge.

[TheDodo via TheIBang]