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Watch: Nap time is over for Grouse Mountain grizzly bears

As the snow pack melts away, Grinder and Coola’s dormancy was a little shorter than usual.

While at 149 days it was a relatively short winter’s nap for Grinder and Coola, they didn’t appear too grumpy emerging from their den up on Grouse Mountain.

On Friday, the pair of orphan bears awoke from in their den at the ski resort’s Wildlife Refuge, clawing away at the snow built up at the den’s entrance, and ambling toward their first snack of bright green romaine lettuce.

Before starting their winter dormancy period, Grinder and Coola weighed 940 and 1,012 pounds. They emerged at a healthy 760 and 830 pounds, according to Grouse’s wildlife experts. That’s not far off from last year’s numbers, when the bear pair weighed 920 and 1,045 pounds on the way in, and 718 and 827 pounds when they awoke on May 3.

But last year they rested for longer: 163 days, their third-longest dormancy since arriving on the mountain in 2001. Their longest nap ended the year before, in 2022, after 171 days dozing.

An interesting thing about bears is they aren’t true hibernators, explained Dr. Ken Macquisten, Wildlife Refuge director and veterinarian. “True hibernators, their body temperature goes way down and they almost lose consciousness and are hard to arouse,” he said.

“Grizzly bears and other bears when they hibernate are actually in just a deep sleep. Their heart rate goes down, their body temperature goes down a little bit, but it’s really a strategy to conserve energy,” Macquisten said.

And instead of going to the bathroom, bears have a unique system of recycling the nitrogen waste in their bodies while dormant, he explained.

After losing around 20 per cent of their body weight, the bears emerge in fantastic shape each year, Macquisten said. This year was no different.

“They [had] a little bit of bed hair, but they otherwise looked like they managed through another hibernation really well,” he said.

Video footage courtesy of Grouse Mountain. Editing by Nick Laba / North Shore News