Do deer hibernate?

No, deer don’t hibernate to survive the winter season. Actually deer is an active animal even during winter. Their thick coat of hair helps them to survive cold winter by absorbing and trapping heat. During cold nights, they look for shelter under or near a warm hotspot. When enough food is not available, they reduce their heart rate and metabolism but they don’t go into hibernation mode.

Have you ever wondered how do deer survive harsh winter weather? We know that there are animals such as bears, and bats who hibernate during winter to survive harsh winter conditions. In order to get an answer, we need to understand what hibernation is and why animals go into hibernation. How it helps them to survive the cold harsh winter conditions.

What is hibernation?

Hibernation is a state of minimal activity in which animals slow down their metabolism, breathing, heart rate, and their body temperature drops. Hibernation can also be referred as deep sleep that helps animals to save energy and survive winter without eating much. This is the reason why we don’t see much wildlife during the winter season. Going into hibernation is not an easy task, animals have to prepare hard for it. The preparation for hibernation includes

  • Eating extra food and storing it in the form of body fat that can be utilized during winter.
  • Looking for safe shelter to protect themselves from predators.
  • Looking for shelter having a warm environment. For example: during the winter season, fishes move to the bottom of the lakes and ponds and take shelter under logs, rocks, fallen leaves, and muds.
  • Have to store energy in the form of brown fat near the animal’s brain, neck, lungs, and heart so that they can use this fat during arousal from the deep sleep.

How hibernation works in animals?

During the hibernation period, the metabolism of the animal slows down and the body temperature also reduces. For example in case of squirrels body temperature can drop up to -2 oC.

The heart rate and breathing also slows down. In case of bats heart falls from 400 to 11 beats per minute.

Most of the brain activities also cease during hibernation, only necessary areas in the brain remain active.

Hibernation may last for few days, weeks or months depending up on the animal and its ambient conditions.

Do You Know?

In North America, a species of wood frog can survive being frozen and thawed a few times a season thanks to a unique natural substance in their blood.

Why do animals go into hibernation?

Most of the animals hibernate due to scarcity of food supply and difficulty in finding it. Due to insufficient food, survival for animals becomes difficult. Therefore in order to save energy and survive for a long period without eating much food, animals hibernate or go to deep sleep. This hibernation period reduces their energy consumption as their metabolic activities, breathing, and heart rate slows down.

There are certain risk of hibernation also such as

  • Animals may die during hibernation due to a lack of sufficient stored fat.
  • Premature awaking
  • Getting killed by predators
  • Death due to severe climate conditions

Why don’t deer go into hibernation?

Deer are active animals during the winter season. During the winter season, they grow long, thick, and dark hairs called guard hairs which form a thicker coat. This thicker coat has the ability to absorb more sunlight and trap heat which helps them to protect from cold.

There oil-producing glands in the skin of deer which act as a water repellant. Also, they eat more during the fall, so that a fat layer is formed that also act as insulation.

When temperature drops very low during winter nights, deer often take shelter under or near warm hotspot.

Their body also has the ability to alter their blood circulation and producing heat under the hair coat. Along with these changes, deer also alters its behavior such as it becomes less active and reducing metabolism. They have the ability to reduce the heart rate if sufficient food is not available.

In these ways, deer can survive the harsh winter conditions without hibernating.

Do you know there are several animals apart from bear and bat who go into hibernation mode during winter such as:

  • Bumblebees
  • Ground squirrels
  • Hedgehogs
  • Turtles
  • Common poorwill
  • Snakes
  • Woodchucks
  • Fat-tailed Lemurs
  • Moths

Do You Know?

Animals hibernate in lots of different ways – from snails, who attach themselves to a surface, cover themselves with their slime, and wait out winter, to hedgehogs, who like to build nests out of grass, leaves, and straw, often under fallen logs.

Professor Atom

View posts by Professor Atom
Professor Atom is a science enthusiast and alumni of IIT Bombay. According to him, every question can be solved with curiosity and mind mapping. ( Curiosity = Asking Questions = Learning )

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