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Visiting a bear’s winter den with bear scientist Rae Wynn-Grant

When the arrival of winter reduces access to food in their ecosystem, it’s time for bears to hibernate. Their breathing rate, heart rate, and body temperature all lower to help conserve their energy, but a lot can still happen in a bear’s cozy winter den. Conservation scientist and large carnivore ecologist Dr. Rae Wynn-Grant describes the biological process in this Scholastic video:

“One of the coolest things about black bears is that they give birth during hibernation. So a mother bear will start hibernating when she’s pregnant and at some point in the month of January, she will give birth to usually two or three small cubs.

When they’re born, they’re very, very small—maybe six or eight inches—and they are hairless and blind… and the little newborns just crawl on up and start nursing milk from their mother. And they stay nursing for the three or four months that they continue to hibernate.”

Wynn-Grant puts GPS collars on bears during the summer to better understand where they’re finding food and how well they’re surviving in spaces where bears and humans might share habitats. She also visits them in their winter dens to assess their cubs’ health.

A perk of the job: Cuddling tiny baby bears while she and her team measures and weighs them, and then returns them to their hibernating mother within the den.

Rae Wynn-Grant
A big part of Wynn-Grant’s work is to “discover ways humans can improve relations with some of our favorite wildlife friends and avoid conflict.” This Scholastic video explains:


Find related lesson plans and printables at Scholastic. This sequencing activity and other learning ideas can help connect younger kids to the science through storytelling, play, and movement, too.

Watch these related bear videos next:
What’s the difference between hibernation and sleep?
• Un albero un anno (One tree one year)
• A ‘ghost bear’ mother teaches her cubs to fish
• Polar Bears Eat Goose Eggs: New eating habits in warmer climates

h/t Corina Newsome.

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