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The word "hibernate" comes from Latin and means "winter sleep". Many people think that certain animals hibernate because the weather gets cold where they live. And since polar bears live where it's very cold, they must hibernate.
      But animals who hibernate do it because their food supply becomes scarce in winter. They do not store up a food for the winter. Instead, they lay up a reserve supply of fat on their body. Then the hibernating animal sleeps through the cold winter, living on the fat it has stored up in its body.

       During this sleep, all life activities nearly stop. The body temperature goes down, the breathing is slow, and the heart beats faintly. Do polar bears do this?
        The answer is no. They do sleep more in the winter than in summer, but their sleep is not the deep sleep of hibernation. Their temperatures and breathing remain normal. They sleep in hollows or caves in ice or snow. During warm spells they may even venture forth for a day or so.


 Female polar bears do more sleeping in winter than the males. They go into dens and are often snowed under for weeks. The cubs are born during this winter sleep. The cubs are often very small, weighing no more than six or eight ounces at birth. So the mother bear nurses them and cares for them for several months during the winter.
           Hibernating animals are awakened in the spring by the change in temperature, moisture and by hunger. They crawl out of their dens and starting eating again.

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