Posts Tagged ‘hibernation’

by , Keeper
I'm extremely excited to be working at the Museum since October 2010. My favorite part of this job- besides working with the animals- is listening to all of the Keeper stories, I hear a new one each day. In my spare time I enjoy hiking, belly dancing, and vegan cooking.
I work Sunday through Thursday. I can be found mostly behind the scenes or training the Ring Tail Lemurs.

QuikPic: Virginia Bear

January 8th, 2013

Lately, you may have noticed the bears are harder to find on exhibit. Our black bears don’t actually hibernate- it’s not cold enough in Durham but they do slow down a lot! Typically, you can find Gus and Mimi in or by the cave and Virginia and Yona spend their days up on the cliff. You may be able to see a big bear body if you use the camera. Here’s a picture of Virginia sitting up in her comfy pile of hay.

 

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by , Keeper
Hiya! I'm Mikey. That's all you get. :)
I work Tuesday through Saturday and you can usually find me training the bears, mucking with the reptiles and saying bad words in Italian to the aquatic filter systems.

What do they do when it’s cold?

January 27th, 2012

Hi everybody!

Now the time has come once again for the tank tops, flip flops and short shorts to get packed up again for the season (that’s okay, I don’t look so good in short shorts anyway).  The end of fall is gone and we’re officially into winter.  The weather has been remarkably warm for this time of year, but we’re past Thanksgiving have even knocked out the big holiday part of the year.  That’s right, the buy Mikey presents and give him Stuffed Shells to eat time!  The tree can come down and the mistletoe can be packed up (ladies, don’t let that stop you), and sadly, it’s the end of novelty Christmas songs for another year.  I have watched all my holiday feel-good TV programs and drunk about 9 gallons of Egg Nog  :)  Oh yes, it’s the most wonderful time of the year.  But not everything is worked up and as excited as we are.  In fact, some of our animals here are downright un-excited about this time of the year.  Winter isn’t for everyone it seems, and every species we have reacts differently to it.  Some eat less, some get sleepy, and some wear ridiculous singing hats (oh wait, that’s the staff!)  But even though our guys aren’t in the wild anymore, we still try to replicate their natural habits as much as possible.

So a huge question that I and the rest of the staff answer at pretty much every bear program is “Do they hibernate here?”  The question is no.  Our big kids don’t undergo true hibernation.  It doesn’t get nearly cold enough to really knock them down, they just get really lazy.  They’ve spent the last few months really packing on the pounds so that they need to eat very little to subsist.  They still get fed three times a day, but it’s a smaller amount of food than in the summertime.  But even though they are a little on the low energy side, the bears still get up to grab snacks here and there.  Especially Gus – he’s always up to train or get treats.  Him and MiMi take up residence in the cave to laze about, while Virginia and Yona usually stay up on the cliff.  So not hibernating, but a good bit of extra sleeping happens.

This is a pic from a past year of Virgina coated in snow

My camera doesn't have the best zoom, but you can see MiMi coming out of the cave to visit me for treats, while Gus is still lounging inside

 

As for the Lemurs, nothing goes differently with the Red Ruffed since they live completely indoors in climate control.  But the Ringtails who have yard access when it is 40 degrees and up, lose their outside privileges when it gets too cold.  They have 4 inside stalls to run amok in, but when it’s too cold for our tropical non-monkey primates (that’s for you Kimberly!) they stay in the nice warm building and get extra toys and enrichment to play with so they aren’t bored.

Those crazy Ringtails!

You know, one day I would like Lemur snuggle time in a hammock!

 

The bunch in the Farmyard are some tough kids.  They endure the cold weather with a minimum of change.  The pigs get  a more enclosed den to shelter in, the bigger animals get their top stall doors closed to help with wind and Max our steer could care less.  As long as he is fed on time, then nothing else bothers him in the least.  Scout our duck will get closed in his inside stall on the nights below 30 degrees, as will the bunnies who also have a heat lamp.  Our program Birds of Prey get some plastic covering to shield them from the elements as well as heated perches to keep them a little warmer.

The new and improved winter pig shelter

As long as the food keeps coming, Max doesn't care. Although his coat does get shaggier for the winter

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Scout can handle all but the coldest temperatures - He's one tough bird!

 

Most of the Carolina Wildlife animals remain unaffected by the seasons change because they are in a climate controlled building.  But our woodchuck Henry seems to want to knock down and hibernate for the winter this year.  He’s gotten increasingly sluggish as the season gets on, he eats a lot less and spends most of his time sleeping (I’m jealous).  At least I have a better chance of not being bitten for a few months.

Usually he does this in his nest...

 

That’s just a small portion of our animals, but since the majority of our bunch is NC natives, they all have various adaptations to make it through the cold months of the year.  As for me, I’m a northern transplant.  Well adapted, mind you…but I still take certain measures when the cold temps set in.  I use it as an excuse to drink lots of hot cocoa, wear my comfy fleece vest, and of course nothing warms you up like a steaming calzone with cheese still bubbling out…Mmmmmmmmm…..

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  1. Excellent Mikey! Well done! Except, now I want a nap….after a nice dose of cheesy italian food!!

    Posted by Ashlyn
  2. Thanks! And your reaction is as it should always be! Nothing better than a nice Italian food coma to bring on a good nap time! :)

    Posted by Mikey

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by , Keeper
I have been working at the museum since 2003, and I feel fortunate to have a job where I can start my day with amazing animals surrounding me. I enjoy camping, hiking and rock climbing in my spare time when the weather is nice.
I work Tuesday through Saturday and spend a lot of time behind the scenes, but you might find me at a public program or feeding the farmyard animals in the afternoon.

It’s Time For Hiberna…..zzzzzzzzzz

October 27th, 2008

It’s around that time when Wendy the Woodchuck is slowing down and getting ready for hibernation. She is the only animal that we have that goes into a true hibernation. She does this even though she’s inside a warm cozy building. Although the temperature in her exhibit will not change much throughout the seasons, her body still tells her it is time to take a long nap for the winter. The reason for this is because studies show that animals have internal rhythms that help regulate both daily and seasonal behaviors. Even though Wendy may not be able to feel a change in the weather, her body still kicks into hibernation every year at the same time!

From the months of October to April, when you visit the museum there is a good chance you will see Wendy curled up in a ball asleep in her bed, just like the picture above. Occasionally throughout the winter she will wake up just enough to eat a little bit, but usually does not even make it back to her bed before she is asleep again! So don’t be alarmed if you are walking through Carolina Wildlife and see her splayed out flat on the floor or with her head resting in her food bowl, she’ll eventually wake up again and make it back to her comfortable bed.

During this time of hibernation for Wendy, we do very little with her exhibit so that we do not disturb her. It can be unhealthy for an animal who is going through this sort of natural cycle to constantly be disturbed from her sleep. Therefore, when we change out her food and water every day we are as quiet as possible. We also check to make sure her bathroom area isn’t dirty, but rarely does it need to be cleaned during the winter months.

Wendy’s body slows down so much during hibernation that she may only take one breath every 30 seconds, and her heart rate drops from about 80 beats per minute to around 5 beats per minute! Now that’s pretty impressive, wouldn’t you say?
Visit Larry’s “Big Word of the Month” from last year to learn more about hibernation and other interesting natural cycles.

Join the conversation:

  1. I like this post a lot.

    Posted by Sherry
  2. Awww, Wendy Woo!

    Posted by Jill
  3. It would be awesome to hibernate!

    Posted by Erin Brown
  4. Great picture and fun facts!

    Posted by Shawntel
  5. I’d love to see a pic of Wendy asleep with her head in her food bowl :) Happy Hibernation!

    Posted by Anonymous

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by , Keeper
Although a native tarheel, I came to the museum from Texas, where I taught Biology courses at a small college. In graduate school I studied the behavior and ecology of marine organisms (mostly crabs, lobsters and sea turtles).
You can find me in the Animal Department Monday-Thursday. Fridays I work for the Department of Innovation and Learning all day.

Born Free, Bat Free!

May 24th, 2008

A few months ago we discovered we had an uninvited guest living on the 3rd floor of the Museum of Life + Science. During the cold of winter a big brown bat, Eptesicus fuscus, was found snoozing near some storage areas in the museum’s attic. We did not release the bat immediately because the likelihood of it surviving was very low. This species normally hibernates much of the winter and would not normally be seen outside in colder months.

Luckily, we had an empty exhibit that just happened to be a former bat environment. If you have ever been to Carolina Wildlife you may remember the darkened area when you first come through the sliding doors. Our “guest” bat moved into the first nocturnal exhibit right next door to the screech owls.

Right: Our bat visitor hanging out in the Carolina Wildlife exhibit.

Now that warm weather has arrived we knew it was time to let the bat go back to the wild. Before we released him we gave him a quick visual exam, paying careful attention to the condition of his wings. At left you can see Keeper Jill holding the bat’s wing out for examination. The wing membrane of bats stretches from near their ankle bones up over their elbow, wrist and elongated finger bones.

Since the bat appeared to be in good condition we released it at sunset near the woods behind the bear exhibit (where visitors do not go). The bat flew from one tree to another and then flew into this batty looking crevice in the rocks. Hopefully, our bat visitor is now munching down some fresh insects in the wild!

You can learn more about Big brown bats at the Western North Carolina Nature Center’s web page.

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  1. People should read this.

    Posted by Elia

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by , Keeper
Although a native tarheel, I came to the museum from Texas, where I taught Biology courses at a small college. In graduate school I studied the behavior and ecology of marine organisms (mostly crabs, lobsters and sea turtles).
You can find me in the Animal Department Monday-Thursday. Fridays I work for the Department of Innovation and Learning all day.

Big Word: Chronobiology

November 1st, 2007

Chronobiology is the study of cyclical patterns of behavior and physiology in organisms. Humans are very familiar with daily rhythms like our sleep/wake cycle. Scientists refer to these daily changes as circadian (which means “about a day” in Latin). Most mammals have roughly 24 cycles in their metabolism rates which are reflected in changes like body temperature (see figure below), wakefulness, and hunger.

The daily behavioral rhythms we observe in organisms result from an interplay between internal physiological processes called biological clocks and external cues from the environment. Changes in either endogenous (internal) processes or exogenous (external) stimuli can disrupt circadian rhythms. If you’ve ever experienced jet lag then you know first hand that conflicts between internal and external cues can have severe effects on an organism!

Here at the museum, Wendy the woodchuck is about to go to sleep for the winter. Hibernation is an example of a biological cycle that occurs over a much longer scale than the circadian rhythms we just discussed. Because hibernation happens just once a year it would be classified as a circannual rhythm (Latin for “about a year”).

Want to learn more?

Dr. Matthew Andrews at the University of Minnesota is currently studying the genetics of hibernation in mammals. He did some of his ground breaking research at NC State before moving north.

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