Oregon Zoo's black bears hungry, playful after long slumber - KPTV - FOX 12

Oregon Zoo's black bears hungry, playful after long slumber

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Takoda kicks back atop a rock at the Oregon Zoo's Black Bear Ridge. He and the zoo's other black bears have grown more active with the arrival of spring. Photo by Michael Durham, courtesy of the Oregon Zoo. Takoda kicks back atop a rock at the Oregon Zoo's Black Bear Ridge. He and the zoo's other black bears have grown more active with the arrival of spring. Photo by Michael Durham, courtesy of the Oregon Zoo.
Tuff lazes in the April sunshine at the Oregon Zoo's Black Bear Ridge. Across North America, bears are starting to emerge from their winter torpor. Photo by Michael Durham, courtesy of the Oregon Zoo. Tuff lazes in the April sunshine at the Oregon Zoo's Black Bear Ridge. Across North America, bears are starting to emerge from their winter torpor. Photo by Michael Durham, courtesy of the Oregon Zoo.
PORTLAND, OR (KPTV) -

Four black bears at the Oregon Zoo have woken up after a slumber that lasted for months.

Takoda, Cubby, Tuff and Dale went into torpor around mid-October last year. They have recently started playing a lot more and their hunger has increased over the last week, according to Julie Christie, the zoo's senior North America keeper.

Some experts refrain from calling it a true hibernation, due to the body temperature and brain activity of black bears during torpor.

"During a warm winter especially, bears wake up and move about the den," said Stephanie Horner, director of the American Bear Association. "They may even leave in search of food. It's more like a long, broken nap."

With black bears, nap length can vary geographically. In the north - where berries, plants and bug larvae die in winter weather - torpor may last around seven months. But where it's warm and food is abundant year-round, as in the southern U.S., bears may bypass hibernation all together.

In temperate Oregon, black bear torpor generally lasts five or six months.

To mirror natural conditions, the animal-care team at the Oregon Zoo reduces the black bears' winter diets significantly, then ramps them back up for spring.

"Most of our bears don't experience the full slumber," said keeper Renée Larison. "They just get really sleepy and much less active." 

As spring temperatures rise around the Pacific Northwest, other animals have slipped from their similarly drowsy states. Western bumblebee queens are popping out of their underground hibernations and local brown bats are unfurling their wings, according to the Oregon Zoo.

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