Ask a Bear

Ask a Bear: Why Are Bears So Lazy?

Our resident bruin expert answers all your questions in our 'Ask A Bear' column.

kodiak bear
Andy Rogers

Q: I see bears all summer and they’re always napping on picnic tables, or laying around in a meadow somewhere. Yeah, yeah, I know you’re supposed to be really muscular and formidable. But how do you expect to maintain that reputation when you’re asleep all the time? —Skeptical Sam

A: YAWNNNN. Oh…Sorry. Were you talking to me? No, I’m not tired; your rudeness is just boring me. Sheesh, the nerve of you people.

But while we’re here, I suppose I could condescend to give you an answer. Maybe you’ve read about my northern cousins, the polar bears, sleeping the days away as they wait for the Hudson Bay to freeze in the fall. And maybe you’ve seen me snoozing in the grass on plenty of summer afternoons, but for the record, I’ve seen plenty of your kind drifting off in the shade to beat the heat. You’re just lucky I walked right by without snagging the peanut butter tortilla off your lap.

Siestas are basically the same for us bears as they are for humans. During the summer, we’re often more efficient in our foraging at dusk or nighttime, so we’ll conserve our energy during the hottest parts of the day and spend the cooler hours looking for food. In total, though, we only sleep about 8 to 10 hours a day in the summer, same as you.

The deal with the polar bears is a little different. In the fall, they nap to conserve energy for seal hunting, but they’re also in a polar-bear equivalent of hibernation at that point in the year. You see, male polar bears never hibernate, and females only hibernate when they’re pregnant. Instead, the northerners go into a fasting state throughout the summer and fall while they don’t have access to the marine critters they normally eat.

As for lazy? Pah. You should see a polar bear go after a seal. We’ve all got crazy relatives, but man. Those guys give me the shivers.

And I’m pretty industrious, myself. In the fall I’m awake for up to 20 hours a day searching for food, tracking down tens of thousands of calories per day in an effort to put on chub before winter. How’s that for hard-working?