Animals that hibernate have always remained something of a mystery to most of us. Especially when looking around for them during winter, there aren’t many animals that hibernate that we can easily see and it can often leave you confused as to what animals hibernate.
So that’s what we’re going to go through here with a list of animals that hibernate.
Bears are, of course, one of the most well-known animals to hibernate, but there are many more animals that hibernate. Here’s a list of 21 common animals that hibernate just like bears, and even some surprising animals that hibernate too…
Hibernation Period: 6 months
Not all bats hibernate, some species of bats do choose to hibernate, whereas some choose to migrate to warmer places.
Bats that choose to remain in cold places to hibernate are most likely to hibernate in dark wall-spaces or quiet and/or remote caves.
Bats will generally not mind sharing spaces with humans during winter, they may even hibernate near to houses, or hibernate in barns, old wells, in hollow trees, old and abandoned mine shafts, and even in people’s attics.
When hibernating a bat’s heart rate drops down from a huge 400 to 25 beats per minute. A bat’s heart rate can drop so low, that bats may not breathe for up to an hour at a time during hibernation – on and off.
The heart rate drops mainly because of the dipping body temperature and immensely slow metabolism rate that bats go through when hibernating during winter.
However, unlike many other animals that hibernate, bats store up their food for winter and fall into a deep sleep. Bats can actually fall into a deep sleep for up to six months or more, making them true long-term hibernators.
A bat’s hibernation period usually starts from late fall and ends toward the middle part of March.
Hibernation Period: 5 – 7 months
Although bears are famously known for hibernating, like many of the hibernators not all bears hibernate. Especially bears in warmer climates like the Andian Bear, where they can find plenty of food all year round, so they have little reason to hibernate.
But the bears that do hibernate, choose to hibernate in dens. These hibernating dens are likely to be built in hollow trees, hillsides, crevices of rocks, caves, under leaves and bushes or even under the deep roots of trees. Usually, bears choose dark places and those that can provide greater warmth and shelter from the elements.
But, while they are picky with their hibernating places, it’s very unusual for bears to hibernate in the same place the following winter, especially in the case of caves or rock crevices. However, another bear will often move into these dens the following winter.
As a way of preparing for the winter, bears double up on their food intake towards late summer and fall, so they can gain enough weight to spend the winter hibernating in deep sleep.
And with a bear’s sleeping pattern, bears are generally light sleepers – or in other words, not heavy hibernators.
Bears more likely enter a state of torpor, from which they can easily be woken from – unlike heavy hibernators, who get into a deep sleep.
Bears hibernate from winter through to spring which on average is about six months, after which bears wake up to feed, mate, and give birth to cubs.
Find out What Eats a Bear!
Hibernation Period: 6 – 7 months
Bumblebees are one of those surprising animals that actually hibernate. Bumblebees usually travel in colonies of 50 to 500, which is led by the queen in charge of the colony.
When winter begins to set in, all the bees will die – except for the queen, who will look for a place to hibernate. The queen is equipped to hibernate so that she can bring her new to life in the spring.
The queen of the colony will start digging into a small patch north-facing soil, as a way of avoiding the winter sun. Sometimes they may seek holes in walls or other gaps and crevices. The queen will then remain in their new hole until spring arrives.
As a way of preparing, the queen bee will fill up with pollen and plump up during the spring and summer months. This will then avoid the need for her to eat during hibernation and she can get into a really deep sleep while staying healthy.
Similar to bumblebees, even ground bees hibernate. But honey bees do not hibernate, instead, they stick together as a group during winter to stay warm and survive with the food they’ve collected over the summer.
4. Box turtles
Hibernation Period: 3 – 4 months
Turtles are one of those animals that can get into hibernation without the hassle of choosing a perfect hibernation spot.
Turtles just find a safe place, and crawl inside their shell and hibernate in their own comfort zone.
Turtles can’t produce their own body heat, and that naturally forces them to hibernate.
Turtles use up stored energy reserves during hibernation and they try to intake oxygen by drinking water wherever available. They try to get oxygen so they can support their minimal needs without using their lungs.
The exact period of hibernation differs according to different species, box turtles in specific hibernate for a period of three to four months in many geographical areas. On average turtles start hibernating between mid-September and mid-October.
Interestingly, some turtles like freshwater turtles hibernate actually in the water. This helps freshwater turtles to maintain stable body temperature, and ensure they don’t fall below freezing point.
For such water hibernation, these turtles rely on something called “cloacal respiration” (breathing out of their posteriors).
Hibernation Period: 4 months
During winter a chipmunk’s body temperature drops drastically and they enter into light hibernation.
Light hibernation is where a chipmunk will sleep heavily, waking up occasionally only to consume stored food. So more of a state of torpor.
Chipmunks will dig a burrow up to 3-feet underground in which they can hibernate.
These burrows are dug next to anything that will cover the burrow so that they can stay as hidden as possible from predators.
As a means of preparing for winter chipmunks collect as much food as possible in the months of summer and autumn.
These food stores are kept deep within the winter burrows for them to be consumed later.
Even while collecting food for its hibernation, chipmunks make sure they collect plenty of nuts and seeds.
This is because this food is less likely to perish in storage, which can be beneficial during the long winter. As such until spring, chipmunks will get through their well-structured and well-stored burrows, and spend the winter hibernating, waking up occasionally to dine on some of their food.
6. Common poorwills
Hibernation Period: 1 – 3 months
Common poorwills are by far the only birds that are known to truly hibernate. Many other birds like doves and whip-poorwill get into a light hibernation (torpor).
Common poorwills hibernate when the temperature gets really cold, or really hot, or when food becomes scarce.
This ability to hibernate or sleep for a long period – unlike other birds, may also be one of the reasons why this bird is called “poorwill” meaning… “The Sleepy one”.
Common poorwills usually hibernate inside a hollow tree log – or in a patch of grass, or any other warm comfortable, remote place they can find.
During hibernation, this bird will use up any energy and fat that it’s stored from all the insects it’s eaten before the hibernation period set in. Common poorwills get into hibernation for several weeks or months at a time – depending on the temperature of the location.
7. Deer mice
Hibernation Period: variable
Deer mice, or field mice, to give them their general name, get into light hibernation and wake up occasionally to eat and to forage. They enter into a light hibernation – often as a group – bundling up together from morning till late afternoon.
They make sure that they hibernate as a group snuggling up, which helps them not only in staying warm but also to save up energy. They wake up at sunset and forage for food.
As a way of preparing for hibernation, deer mice make sure they build warm nests, usually as close as possible to food and water, so they do not have to lose energy foraging far afield for food.
In their search for a warmer nest naturally means they may choose to build their nest in your home during winter. Deer mice build their winter nests using seed, fur, weeds, and paper.
8. Fat-tailed dwarf lemurs
Hibernation Period: up to 7 Months
Fat-tailed dwarf lemurs are the only primate known to hibernate for long periods at a time. They tend to hibernate in hollow trees and enjoy cuddling up with their friends and family for extra warmth.
When hibernating, if you could see them, you would see a group of these animals snuggled up, around five of them at a time.
The hibernation of this animal is a good mix of long and short periods of sleep which can last up to seven months. Lemurs survive the winter by using the fat they have stored in their tails from all the food they ate during the months before winter.
During the period of hibernation, like most animals, lemurs go through low body temperature along with a dramatic decrease in their heart rate.
Hibernation Period: 3 – 4 Months
Geckos are another animal that hibernates, but the hibernation places and period for geckos vary based on the places they live.
In locations with mild winter, geckos hibernate inside a rotting log or flat rocks. Whereas in very cold locations, geckos opt for crevices, caves and other animal burrows.
Most of the gecko species try to store sufficient fat reserves in their tails through the months leading up to winter. During the winter period, they use this energy while maintaining a deep slumber.
Aerobic geckos hibernate in partially hollow trees, so they can settle well and stay insulated, even during harsh winters, with restful sleep.
If the temperature over winter is milder, then aerobic geckos may settle under the bark crevices of trees until the return of the spring months.
10. Ground squirrel
Hibernation Period: 7 – 9 months
Firstly it’s important to say, not all ground squirrels hibernate. The ground squirrels that do hibernate prefer to stay nearer to warm places so they’ll choose their location wisely.
Therefore, ground squirrels tend to choose underground homes for their hibernation as the thermal properties of the ground beneath the frost layer offer a higher temperature range.
When ground squirrels hibernate their body temperature and heart rate reduces – along with a drastic reduction in their rate of metabolism.
However, ground squirrels often enter into a lighter form of hibernation known more as a torpor, where they may wake up and sneak out to forage during warmer days.
One special thing about ground squirrels and their hibernation is the underground homes we mentioned earlier.
These underground winter spaces are very perfectly structured, with strategically hollowed-out tunnels.
Ground squirrels design and maintain an elaborate network of rooms for food storage, sleep and even to urinate …just like bathrooms.
On average, ground squirrels hibernate for up to nine months. But these animals may also hibernate for a short period like few days at a time during other times of the year.
Hibernation Period: 3 – 6 months
Groundhogs are one of those animals well-known for hibernation because they are well-renowned for their ability to predict the weather. Groundhogs are known as true hibernators because their body temperature drops drastically and they get into a completely dormant state.
True hibernators are categorized as animals that can reduce their body temperature below 20 degrees Celsius.
True hibernators are also categorized as animals that can drop their heart rate to 5 beats per minute. The heart rate of groundhogs can reduce from 80 to 10 per minute – or even 5 beats per minute.
Groundhogs hibernate in burrows. These burrows are built-in wooded or bushy areas, which are dug below the frost line and can remain at a stable temperature during winter.
Groundhogs hibernate from October to March or April. However, in more temperate locations, groundhogs will hibernate only for little as three months.
A groundhog waking up from their hibernation is also celebrated in some parts of the U.S. as “Groundhog day”. Groundhogs wake up for spring and will start reproduction right away.
Hibernation Period: 6 weeks to 6 months
Hedgehogs hibernate from six weeks to around six months, depending on the temperature of the location.
As a way of preparing, hedgehogs try to increase up to the weight necessary to survive winter, so hedgehogs try to put on at least 600-grams, which can help store enough fat and energy to get through winter.
Hedgehogs dig into burrows around small and dry areas away from predators. Some also prefer spending winter in old sheds, old rabbit holes, under woodpiles, compost heaps and even deep trees roots.
All in all, hedgehogs prefer staying warm… like most animals. They don’t really bother building warmer houses, they would just move and keep finding already established warmer spots.
During hibernation, the heart rate of hedgehogs drops by almost 90 percent. When they realize their body temperature is dropping too low they briefly wake up. Waking up increases their heart rate to warm their bodies before going back to hibernation again.
A hedgehog’s body temperature will fall to match the temperature of the environment they live in. Because of this, it’s very likely that during winter, their heart rates will drop dramatically, where sometimes they may even stop breathing altogether for some time.
Did you know?
Hedgehogs can also get into a state called estivation when the weather is too cold. Estivation is a type of hibernation that animals go into during extremely hot weather, instead of winter or extremely cold weather – this is akin to passing out on a scorching hot day.
Hibernation Period: Variable
Hummingbirds are one of those animals that can enter into a light hibernation or rather into a state of torpor at variable times during winter.
A state of torpor helps hummingbirds to lower their metabolism, which helps in conserving energy.
Usually, these birds will hang upside down, and it’s easy to mistake them for being dead. They hang upside down until the temperature warms up, after which time they’ll wake up and fly away.
When the temperature is really cold in winter, the body temperature of hummingbirds can drop from the usual daytime temperature of 105°F (40.5° celsius) to an overnight temperature of about 70° F (21° Celsius).
So to get through this extreme cold, hummingbirds will forcefully allow their heart rate and metabolism to slow down. This helps hummingbirds to burn less energy.
During winter mornings, it’s a sight to see these tiny birds sitting motionless, asleep or hibernating. When spring approaches these birds will increase their metabolism and get back to their busy lives.
Hibernation Period: 3-4 months
When winter sets in, most of us have probably witnessed the occasional sight of hundreds …sometimes thousands of ladybugs gathered together.
This is because ladybugs do hibernate. Most ladybugs try to seek cover and stay warm before getting into hibernation. When the weather peaks at extremely cold temperatures, ladybugs get into light hibernation until early spring.
Ladybugs prefer hibernating in warm and comfortable spots over the cold month of winter. And when they hibernate, they generally hibernate as a group.
When choosing a spot to hibernate, ladybugs are often attracted to light-colored houses. Most importantly ladybugs prefer houses that have good south-western sun exposure.
Ladybugs can easily creep in through cracks in windows, doorways and even under clapboards. But ladybugs will rarely feed on any household items, they only like to eat aphids. However, as they are light hibernators, they are likely to hibernate only till early spring.
15. Land snails
Hibernation Period: Up to 3 Years
For animals that are largely made out of water – like snails, it becomes very important to protect themselves from the cold. Extreme cold can easily get these water bodies crystallized due to the cold, which can be lethal.
So it becomes necessary for snails to hibernate and get through the winter season without any exposure to the cold weather.
However, snails will also need water to survive while hibernating. So to deal with these complexities, snails use their multi-purpose mucus to create a layer on the mouth of their shells, on which they can rest while hibernating.
Snails hibernate by withdrawing into their shells and resting on this mucus layer comfortably. This process of mucus layer formation is known as estivation.
Snails can hibernate for up to three years at a time or until conditions improve just well-enough.
For hibernation, snails look for suitable places like nooks, crannies in walls, under stones, leaf litter on any other deep places, where it’s hard for frost to penetrate. Snails also prefer hibernating together in warm places, and certain species of snails may occasionally come out of their seal in the mildest days.
Hibernation Period: 5 months
Lizards are called ectotherms, which means the body temperature of such animals is the same as the environment around them.
This means that when it’s winter and the environment is cold, lizards feel the cold too. Also, ectotherms are animals that have no internal heating capabilities.
This means that such animals will have to depend on heat sources from the outside environment. Such heat sources become rare during winter and so lizards are forced to go into hibernation.
Most of the lizard species hibernate together as a large group, whereas some hibernate alone. Lizards choose places like under trees barks, inside rotten logs or under boards of houses and barns to hibernate. Usually, lizards will not feed on any food while hibernating and they don’t find the need to.
Lizards can survive winter without eating anything at all, simply by hibernating. Lizards hibernate till early spring until the temperature warms up, after which they will begin to feed on small insects and spiders around the yard.
Hibernation Period: 5-6 months
Marmots are animals often referred to as true hibernators. Marmots spend half of their lives in hibernation.
Marmots hibernate in burrows. The winter burrows can get up to 7 feet deep. These burrows are also then filled with lots of hay for insulation and marmots hibernate in groups huddled closely together.
This way of hibernation helps marmots to stay warm and reduce the loss of energy while hibernating.
During winter the heart rate of marmots drops down from 120 beats per minute to 3-4 beats a minute and in some extreme conditions, 2 beats per minute. Also while hibernating the body temperature tends to reduce to 41° Fahrenheit.
They also put on weight and store fats in their body which can help them through the winter.
All these physiological traits help marmots to reserve energy so they’re more prepared for mating when they wake up for spring. Marmots hibernate in early September or October and come out during early April or May.
When they come out from hibernation, they spend their few active months accumulating more fat for the next winter and reproducing.
18. Prairie Dogs
Hibernation Period: 6 months
Prairie dogs also get into a light hibernation. Usually, they prefer comfort locations, where they can curl up with their families in underground tunnels all year round for sleeping. But during winter they prefer to stay “home”, spending time hibernating.
As they enter into a light hibernation, they often wake up from hibernation during the day and come out to gather food. At night, prairie dogs enter into back into their light hibernation, because it’s at this time, their breathing and heart rate drops – causing their metabolism to become shallow.
As winter months pass and the weather gets colder, they will get into a deeper state of hibernation but they will never fully enter hibernation.
Hibernation Period: 4 months
Skunks are an animal that also doesn’t get into complete hibernation. Skunks prefer hibernating in places that are closer to heat, food, and water. This means skunks will move closer to human habitats when they’re looking to hibernate.
Skunks huddle up together when hibernating under porches or other structures. Most of the time, skunks might also invade home gardens for food in winter.
Especially grubs that are found underground are a great source of food for skunks in winter. But most of the time skunks survive the winter on the fat reserves they build up in the previous months. Find out more about Skunks hibernating in Winter.
20. Garter Snakes
Hibernation Period: 5-6 months
Garter snakes are a snake species that hibernate in winter. Garter snakes look for places like grassy areas, meadows and woodlands to build up their winter dens. It is believed that garter snakes will travel just until they find the perfect spot to build their dens.
They also ensure the capacity of the space will fit many snakes to curl up together. Which demonstrates that garter snakes hibernate in groups.
There have been previously reported winter dens containing around 8000 snakes that have come together in one den to hibernate, moving around on top of each other. This group hibernation helps garter snakes to stay warm and insulated, which is important for cold-blooded animals like garter snakes.
21. Wood frogs
Hibernation Period: 3 months
Wood frogs are animals that are exceptional because they fall into deep and true hibernation. The extent to which wood frogs hibernate is so extreme that at some points they will stop breathing.
This means they can cool down so much that the winter starts building up ice crystals on their blood– almost freezing them completely throughout the season.
Wood frogs, however, are not that picky when it comes to their hibernating spots, they’ll hibernate pretty much anywhere as long as it can provide a little warmth.
Wood frogs are known to bury themselves underground, or within leaf-covered areas, under logs, and in burrows. These frogs will remain in the same place until summer arrives to de-freeze them and enable them to breathe fully again.
However, the freezing and hibernating process of wood frogs include different phases…
It’s only when the temperature drops below zero, that wood frogs will settle or bury themselves within a place, where they’ll stop breathing and even the heart will stop pumping. This is where all the water in the body will start to ice up and the frog virtually freezes. But fortunately, this doesn’t mean they’ll die.
When spring or summer sets in, the sunlight will de-freeze the crystals gathered around their body, after which the frog can breathe and, with heart-pounding will get on with their lives again. The frog will then be ready to find a mate for reproduction until the next winter sets in.
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Here’s a book for children that explains all about animals that hibernate…
Or how about this beautifully illustrated book that depicts animals that hibernate…
The following YouTube video provides further explanation of the types of hibernation and additional animals that hibernate such as crocodiles, monarch butterflies, and spadefoot toads…
We have a mixture here of animals that hibernate deeply, meaning they are true hibernators, and some that enter a state of torpor, and so are light hibernators.
There are so many variations that we could provide a much more comprehensive list, but this provides you with a good snapshot of the variety of animals and species that hibernate, the duration and how deeply they hibernate.
We hope it’s been useful. If we missed anything then let us know in the comments.
This content has been checked and verified by a qualified veterinary practitioner. The article has been reviewed by our editorial board and has been approved for publication in accordance with our editorial policy.