Bears taking rest of year off

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  • Black bears at the Red Wolf Sanctuary will begin their estivation period, where they will lay lethargic for the next several months with no food or sleep. These bears were rescued from folks who tried to keep them as pets. Photos by Paul Strasser
    Black bears at the Red Wolf Sanctuary will begin their estivation period, where they will lay lethargic for the next several months with no food or sleep. These bears were rescued from folks who tried to keep them as pets. Photos by Paul Strasser
  • Black bears at the Red Wolf Sanctuary will begin their estivation period, where they will lay lethargic for the next several months with no food or sleep. These bears were rescued from folks who tried to keep them as pets. Photos by Paul Strasser
    Black bears at the Red Wolf Sanctuary will begin their estivation period, where they will lay lethargic for the next several months with no food or sleep. These bears were rescued from folks who tried to keep them as pets. Photos by Paul Strasser
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Black bears at the Red Wolf Sanctuary have given up on the year 2020 and will sleep the rest of it off.

According to a recent Facebook post by sanctuary owner Paul Strasser, contrary to popular belief, black bears do not hibernate, rather they estivate. This is where they spend a period of time in a prolonged state of torpor or dormancy.

Strasser estimated that the bears will spend about three to five months in this lethargic state and humorously compared it to humans during the gloomy days of the sports season.

“Although they can be aroused, they will not eat, sleep, or defecate during the entire time of their prolonged nap,” Strasser said. During these months of fasting, they must rely on the fat that they have stored within their bodies to metabolize.

Strasser went on to explain that all of the bears at the sanctuary were rescued from people who attempted to domesticate them and keep them as their pets. He said that bears are the largest of the North American omnivores and they require the most expensive care throughout the year as far as their diet and housing.

“They have just completed a period of hyper-fasia when they consume 30-50 pounds of fatty foods to gain their sleeping weight,” said Strasser. They then make themselves a comfortable nest of straw where they will bed down to keep warm throughout the winter months.

Strasser said that the bears would see us next spring, but for now, he will be closing up the bears’ den building, shutting off the water lines, and turning off the lights until March. The bears will have water troughs to access if they get thirsty.

It is expensive to rehabilitate, feed, and provide shelter to animals. The Red Wolf Sanctuary is also home to several species of fox, raptors and other birds, wolves, horses, and various other wildlife. They have been the community’s go-to for animal rehabilitation for many years. They are always accepting donations to cover the expenses that come with taking great care of the wildlife. If you would like to help their cause financially, or even volunteer your time, call the sanctuary at 812-438-2306 or visit their Facebook page for more information.