3 min read

Do Bears Poop While They're Hibernating?

The MOST important question.

It's a place we never get to see in person - at least, not the more cautious of us.

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Bear dens: the mythical enclaves where hibernating bears cozy up with their cubs to brave out frigid winters.

YouTube/bobby54401
YouTube/bobby54401

But how, exactly, do bears live through their seven-month sleep?

More specifically, what do they do when ... er ... nature calls?

YouTube/bobby54401
YouTube/bobby54401

This is where the "fecal plug" comes into play.

YouTube/bobby54401
YouTube/bobby54401

Shorter days trigger biological changes in the bears to prepare them for their hibernation. To prepare for hibernation, many North American bears start making their dens while it's still warm out, in September or October. Cubs often help their mothers build the dens by raking in leaves with their paws.

And all the while, inside their bodies intestinal secretions and cells start to slough off and form a plug, which grows to about 7 to 15 inches long and 1 to 2-and-a-half inches in diameter.

YouTube/bearstudy
YouTube/bearstudy

While hibernating, bears don't eat or drink (and therefore, don't pee or poop), and their heart beats drop from 90 to 8 beats per minute. Their breathing decreases from six to 10 breaths per minute to one breath every 45 seconds.

YouTube/bearstudy
YouTube/bearstudy

By the time the bears emerge for spring, they have to get ready to eat and poop normally.

So, they get rid of their fecal plug as soon as they leave their den.

"By the sixth or seventh month in the den, most of these bears defecate - usually near the den entrance," according to the North American Bear Center. "Fecal plugs have a light odor that is not unpleasant."

Watch a bear get ready for winter below:

And then watch some footage of them sleeping away the time: