It’s that time of year when Finland’s native brown bears are getting ready for winter.
With months of hibernation ahead in their dens during the coldest and darkest part of the year, they need to fatten up before their metabolism slows down.
“We should not talk about sleeping, we should talk about hibernation but it’s something a little bit like sleep, but there’s a difference that their metabolism goes down, their heart beat goes down, their breathing goes down, so it’s actually a very deep sleep” explains Kirsi Pynnönen-Oudman, Research Coordinator at Helsinki’s Korkeasaari Zoo.
To get the zoo’s 12-year old and 18-year old brown bears prepared for hibernation, the zoo makes sure they are stuffed full of the foods they like, and the foods they need – which are not always the same thing!
“They don’t sleep if they don’t eat enough in autumn, so we give them quite a lot of meat, and they build a kind of fat layer under their skin. Now at this time we start to give them berries and some fruit and a little bit less meat” says Pynnönen-Oudman.
“Of course they prefer meat and they prefer berries, this kind of very high energy foods. They don’t quite like the berries but if there’s nothing else then they will eat them!”
The bears at Korkeasaari will hibernate for four or five months. This spring they woke up at the start of March.