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All of the bears at Dancing Bears Park are hibernating – this happens for the first time since the establishment of the shelter


© FOUR PAWS | Hristo Vladev

For the last several days all the inhabitants at Dancing Bears Park in Bulgaria are hibernating. This happens for the first time since the shelter was established. Nasko and Monty were the last two that were refusing to fall asleep but finally they gave in and have not been out of their dens for the last couple of days. According to the manager of the park Dimitar Ivanov if a bear is hibernating it means that it is leading a quality life “Most of the bears which were rescued from zoos or private owners have never been in hibernation before arriving at the park. The living conditions and good nutrition which are suitable to their natural needs lead to the awakening of their wild instincts. With some bears this happens very quickly - within a couple of years; while with others it takes longer.”

Monty was rescued seven years ago when he was a young bear from a hotel near the city of Rousse and for the very first time he went into hibernation at the end of last year. The FOUR PAWS specialists have worked hard to ensure the right environment and diet that will predispose Monty for hibernation, but up until now there were no results. Last year Monty was moved to a different sector together with one of the most adaptive to natural life bears – Mima. The expectations were that she will “teach” him how to make a den on his own and prepare himself for the winter sleep – something that in wild nature mothers teach their cubs during the first two years of their lives. The result of this co-existence did not come late and this winter Monty dig two dens by himself, although at the end he preferred to hide in one of the artificial dens available at his sector after the first heavy snowfall. 

© FOUR PAWS | Hristo Vladev

Nasko who was brought to the park in 2014 from the Plovdiv zoo also went into hibernation for the first time in his life. For the 28-year-old giant the adaptation to the new environment was really hard, especially to the large open areas. When he arrived, he refused to come out of his lair. According to experts the reason was kind of agoraphobia, which is a result of the fact that he has spent his whole life in 10 square meters in a concrete cell before he arrived at Dancing bears park. On the recommendation of the Dean of the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Forestry prof. Bogdan Aminkov, Nasko went through an experimental therapy with antidepressants, which gave good results.  A few days ago, unexpectedly for everyone, Nasko hid in his lair and has not come out since, which is a sure sign that he has fallen into lethargy. Boyka and Standy, the two bears which in 2015 FOUR PAWS took from the illegal zoo near Rousse, this year went into hibernation for the first time as well – at the very moment there were some serious drops in the temperature in early winter. 

© FOUR PAWS | Hristo Vladev

The hibernation of brown bears is a natural process by which the bears manage to survive during winter conditions when food resources in nature are limited. It lasts from several weeks to several months in the period from late November to early April and it is preceded by a preparation in which the bear actively stores the energy in fat deposits that will help her to last through the entire winter. During this period the animals begin to prepare a den to spend their sleep and it is not rare for them to dig out several ones until they find the perfect place. In the wild the dens of bears are found in amazing places – in the roots of trees, in caves and crevices of rocks, even in abandoned mine galleries. The entrance is always narrow. Inside the bear prepares its comfortable bed which covers with foliage, moss and branches. During hibernation the heart rate and breathing slow down and the body temperature decreases slightly. Sometimes the bear may not be deep into sleep and it happens to come out of the den for a brief time. When spring comes and temperatures raise permanently the bear wakes up and begins to restore the body mass which has lost during hibernation, which can reach 50% of its weight. 

© FOUR PAWS | Hristo Vladev

Contrary to the situation this year at Dancing Bears Park in recent years in wild nature in Bulgaria there is a rise of the cases with bears that were not able to fall into hibernation or they wake up too early. According to the experts of FOUR PAWS this is mainly due to the entering of people into the natural habitat of bears with activities such as construction, logging, hunting, skiing or gathering of mushrooms and berries which leads to a decrease of the food resources in the period prior to hibernation, during which the bears need to gain body fat.