Maybe it’s a question you’ve thought about a lot. When a bear goes into hibernation, does it poop?
No! Bears don’t poop during hibernation.
When a bear goes into hibernation (which all learned people know happens), a bear will drop their heartbeat from 55 to 9 beats per minute, and reduce their metabolism by up to 53%. A female polar bear may hibernate up to 8 months, losing 1.5-2lbs a day. All this without dropping their body temperature more than a couple of degrees.
Brian Barnes, director of the Institute of Arctic Biology at the University of Alaska Fairbanks said it best. “In my opinion, bears are the best hibernators. Their body is a closed system. They can get through winter with only oxygen—it’s all they need.”
That closed system means many things, but one of them is constipation. When that bear wakes up from that long rest, it hasn’t dropped a deuce in many months. The bear will actually have a “fecal plug” in their intestine, which prevents them from pooping during hibernation. No, this isn’t the kind of thing they insert. It’s made up of different material they have eaten, including licked hairs and other indigestible items. The longer the hibernation, the larger the plug.
The fecal plug will be the first thing to exit once the bear gets their systems flowing again. Upon exit, a fecal plug has “a light odor that is not unpleasant.”
We all know that fiber and water are great ways to push past constipation, and bears have long known the same. It’s the first thing they go for when they wake from that sweet, sweet “slumber.”
Image courtesy srslyguys