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Can Ted Recover During Hibernation? - UPDATE November 14, 2021

TedTed on Nov. 14

I am waiting for the full medical report about Ted’s surgery, knowing that it was more extensive than expected. Will he heal when he is slowed down for winter? Yes, mammals in the order Carnivora are known for their ability to heal wounds incurred during their predatory attacks. Although bears are not major predators, they are descendents of predators and have the same ability to heal. But I used to wonder if hibernation would hamper that. It didn’t. During my old days of visiting bears in winter dens I saw plenty of wounds from bullets, arrows, and other causes in my fall visits and found them largely healed by spring. No one knows exactly how they do it. It probably helps that they don’t reduce body temperature nearly as much as deeper hibernators do. It remains above 88° Fahrenheit, which means they can maintain most body functions. They also don’t slow their heart rate as much as other hibernators. It can fall to five beats per minute for a few seconds while exhaling, but it then speeds up to maintain a much higher overall rate per minute, generally over 22 beats per minute. Although studies in captivity have shown that black bears don’t eat, drink, urinate, or defecate; our studies in the wild show that they eat snow and icicles and mothers ingest urine from their cubs. In turn, they urinate as we have seen on den cams.

Ted's surgery Ted's surgery
Ted's surgery on November 12

To see how Ted is doing, I paid him a brief visit this morning. He isn’t yet making friendly grunts, but he did welcome me by extending his tongue. He recognizes people but is not yet his vigorous, friendly self. I frequently look at bears’ eyes to judge their mood. Ted’s eyes today look unexpressive and not the engaging, loving eyes I see when he makes his friendly grunts and licks my face while eye to eye. I look forward to seeing him gain energy and be his old self—and perhaps better than ever without his dental problems.

Thank you for all you do.
Lynn Rogers, Biologist, Wildlife Research Institute and North American Bear Center

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