With Autumn in full-swing, the bears are making final preparations for their months-long Winter hibernations. In the Fall, bears enter a period of "hyperphagia"—gorging on up to 20,000 calories per day (and gaining three pounds per day). They need to prepare for up to five months of confinement (depending on their climate zone) during which they will not eat, drink or eliminate waste. While they may not technically "sleep" right through their entire hibernation, their respiration and heartbeats will drop significantly, conserving precious energy, energy which they will need to complete the hibernation.
Bear breeding season in in the late Spring or Summer. Pregnant bears, however, can "suspend their pregnancies"—that is, forestall their fertilized eggs from implanting into their uteruses (where they would continue to gestate). This phenomenon, called "embryonic diapause," allows the mother bear to assess if she had been able to consume sufficient calories (pre-hibernation) to make it through "the big sleep." Should she find enough food (for herself and her future offspring), she will allow the pregnancy to continue. She will give birth during hibernation (usually in January or February), and remain quietly-alert enough to care for her cub. While she will not eat or eliminate waste, the baby certainly will. The mother bear will nurse, clean and consume the cub's droppings in order to keep the den clean.
The Danish Modernist stoneware bear sculpture, shown above, captures the lumbering energy of a fattened bear, preparing for Winter hibernation. It was sculpted by artist Knud Kyhn for Royal Copenhagen. He supervised their production—casting and glazing—during his long association with the company. Click on the photo above to learn more about it.
More Autumnal Offerings tomorrow and in the days to come.
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We also can be found in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania at The Antique Center of Strabane (www.antiquecenterofstrabane.com).
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