"Five more minutes," I say as the loud horn rattles me out of the darkness of slumber. My eyes flutter open to the brightness of day. I know it will take some time to get used to this. It always does. Each year, I sleep through the coldest part of the winter. You see, I am a bear, a Grizzly Bear to be specific.
Now before you take off running, allow me to introduce myself. My full name is Ursus Arctos Horribilis. The ladies call me "Horrible Arc," and when I first wake up, I gotta tell ya, that description is right on the money.
You think Mondays are rough, imagine sleeping through most of the winter! I admit I've hit the snooze button a few times before rolling outta bed.
Take a seat on that rock over there. I know there's a lot of misconceptions about us bruins, so I asked for this interview. But I thought you'd at least bring a cup of coffee. The fish is nice, but for breakfast? Give me a break!
So before you start, I've prepared a few points that always come up. Let's get those out of the way first. Sometimes, I can "barely" take the same questions over and over! Hey, did you get that pun? Most don't recognize what great comedians we are. As we talk about one of our most well-known habits, maybe you'll learn a few things and have a chuckle or two.
Here's something that many don't know. Right before hibernation, we load up on food. I mean really load up, like eating up to 20,000 calories daily and gaining as much as 30 pounds a week! Last Fall I was working at the local McDonald’s around lunchtime. You know how busy that can be. I said to one of the customers "Sorry about the wait." He took one look at my belly and said, "Don't worry about it, you'll find a way to lose it."
Here's another factoid: We breed in the late spring/early summer. Yeah, that's what we call it when we start families, except my Australian cousins, they "mate." Hello, is this thing on? Anyway, the fertilized egg will undergo delayed development. It will then remain in a mama bear's womb for weeks or even months.
What's so interesting about that? It means that baby bears are born in winter during hibernation! Talk about easy labor. Sure I'm a guy, but I bet I could even do that! So, the cubs are born and nursed in the den until we all come out in spring.
And this brings us to one of the most unknown facts about our sleeping habits. During hibernation, we're not sleeping the whole winter. During this time, called torpor, a bear's heart rate drops to as slow as 8 beats per minute. That's down from its normal 45-50 beats per minute. Everything really slows down. I've dozed off for a few weeks at a time.
But we're not asleep the whole time. We chill in our den and catch up on reruns or whatever. After bellying up to the buffet for a few weeks, what happens? We can go without eating, drinking, urinating, or even defecating. So that answers one of your burning questions...I get that one all the time!
Here's a bonus one you didn't ask- what does that idiom mean? It's a rhetorical question. It means the answer to the previous question is emphatically and obviously "yes." For instance, "Would I like a free trip to Paris?" "Does a bear poop in the woods?" By the way, I get a quarter every time you say that. Hey, a bear's gotta eat!
But I do want to clarify. Most of our newer dens have indoor plumbing. It's the 21st century and prices are coming down for remodeling. Technically, since our homes are in the woods, the answer is still correct.
Speaking of that, do you wanna see the place? I need to stretch these old bones anyway. Let's take a walk around. Most bears sleep in dens they dig out in hollowed-out trees. Others live under logs or rocks, caves, banks, or even shallow depressions. We're not picky.
I've been under this tree for about the last 7-8 years. It was a fixer-upper; I've made a few changes, so it feels like home. You wouldn't believe the moss the previous owner had in there- it was so 1970's! It was "unbearable!" That was one of my first improvements, nice new color and tasty too.
Still, I've got my realtor looking into a new place because property values are going down around here. You people are getting too close. Now I don't mean that in a bad way. When I say, "you people", I mean "humans." We can't seem to be able to coexist. I've got needs and they don't quite fit in your plans.
Despite what you might see on TV, man-eating bear attacks are uncommon. But it might occur when we're sick. Or if my natural prey is scarce, I'll attack and eat anything I'm able to kill.
Now, relax, don't you worry. When we first emerge, that's not an issue. Like right now, I'm in a state called walking hibernation for the next 2-3 weeks. During this time, my metabolic processes need to adjust to normal levels.
I probably won't eat or drink much during this time. See why I moved this date up from mid-April, as you originally requested? By that time, I'll be "starvin' like Marvin" and you could easily end up on the menu!
But right now, I'm pretty groggy and just getting started. Actually, I'm pretty vulnerable. This is another question that people often ask: What other animals could kill a Grizzly? You ever wonder that?
Well, I'll tell you. Elephants, Hippos, and Rhinos can all easily take me down. Adult male Lions and Tigers can kill a Grizzly as well. It wouldn't be easy, but they have the tools to do it. Fortunately, none of them live in my neighborhood.
But there are many large bulls or even moose that I wouldn't want to meet in a dark alley. Speaking of buffalo, I need to get a graduation gift for their boy. He's going off to college and I wanted to stop over and say "Bison."
See, even with some of our natural enemies, we find a way to get along. It would be nice if we could do that with you people. I hope this interview shows you I'm no menace, I'm a big "Teddy Bear."
I can be kinda cranky around this time. But aren't we all when we just wake up? If you don't have any more questions, I'll head back inside and watch some old videos. I've got a distant cousin on my mother's side who was a movie star.
They were old movies, and being a panda, they're all in black and white. My favorites are his westerns. He'd saunter into the saloon, eat all the peanuts, shoot out the windows, and then walk out like Clint Eastwood. If anyone tries to stop him, he'd sneer at them and say, "I'm a panda, look it up!"
Of course, they'd grab the encyclopedia and look up "panda." And sure enough, it would read "A black and white animal that eats shoots and leaves."
Well, I hope you got all this down and can explain to your readers about hibernation. It can be a tough subject, I forgot to even check your "koala-ifications."
Run along now. Don't come back in these parts. Once I'm fully awake, I'll tear you apart with my "bare" hands!