Korkeasaari bears wake early from hibernation

There's fruit and vegetables on the menu for the two brown bears while their post-hibernation appetite returns

Helsinki Zoo's brown bears wrestle in the snow after waking from hibernation, February 2019 / Credit: Mari Lehmonen, Helsinki Zoo

It’s a common notion in Finland that when bears crawl out of their cave after hibernation, that it signals the end of spring.

The two resident brown bears at Helsinki’s Korkeasaari Zoo have decided spring is on the way, and are wide awake.

The 12-year old and 18-year old emerged from their den and went sniffing in the snow before doing some playful wrestling.

“It was clearly visible the bears enjoyed the snow” says a zoo spokesperson.

WATCH: Helsinki Zoo’s bear prepare for long winter hibernation

The bears might wake up a few times during winter, but once they’ve gone outside for a walk they won’t return to hibernation mode again, explains the zoo’s press officer.

“Bears are quite accurate with the time of awakening. This was the earliest moment for a decade, but perhaps this is associated with natural variation or the bears have somehow sensed the spring. The temperature has now risen significantly, but it is difficult to draw conclusions” says Mari Lehmonen.

In general bears in Finland can sleep even up to six months and normally wake up at the end of February or beginning of March, so an early alarm clock for the zoo’s two brown bears was an unexpected surprise.

The bears have a routine at the end of hibernation and their appetite is not so big at first. They’ll eat some vegetables, salads and fruit at first but it doesn’t give them quite enough energy to play outside all day.

“There’s also a lot of snow in the enclosure, so moving around takes a lot of energy and they are likely go back inside to relax frequently” Lehmonen tells News Now Finland.