7-12, Unit Three, Activity 4: "Hibernation-Migration Fascination"

A comparison of two different types of hibernation – those of bears and marmots. A comparison of Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park east side lowland grizzlies and highland grizzlies.

Grades: 6 – 12
Time: 1 – 2 hours
Subjects: Life science, geography


  • Copies of narrative for each student
  • Ccomparison worksheet for each student

Teacher Background:
This is a compare and contrast exercise, and a homework assignment to design a game about grizzly bears and hibernation. The main characters in this activity are grizzly bears and marmots, but most of the material is also applicable to black bears and Colombian ground squirrels. For a review and links to more information about bears in Glacier, visit the K-3 Activities, Unit Four, as well as the 7-12 Activities, It's Not Easy Being Grizz, News Bearly Fit to Print, and Subalpine Web.

1. Have students read the "Narrative" and complete the table below with "yes", "no" or "sometimes" for the grizzly bear and marmot, indicating the amounts requested.

During Hibernation…

Grizzly Bear


Lowers body temperature (how much?)

Slows Heart (to how many beats/minute?)

Slows breathing (to how many breaths/minute?)

Wakes to drink?

Wakes to urinate?

Gives birth?

Uses fat for energy?

Uses protein?

Uses brown fat?

Gains muscle weight?

Recycles urea?

Wakes rapidly?

Wakes Slowly?

Acid for gallstone prevention?

How would you define hibernation? Is grizzly hibernation less complicated than marmot hibernation? Is hibernation easier or harder for small animals like Colombian ground squirrels or jumping mice? Why?

2. In winter, chickadees lower their body temperature 10 degrees when they sleep in a tree cavity overnight. Is this hibernation? Do you think that female grizzlies would have a harder or easier time getting through a winter

3. Describe the food conditions under which a grizzly could have triplets (review from Unit 2). Over time, which grizzlies, the lowland or the backcountry, will be higher in population? Why?

Have students design a game using all the bear and marmot information they now have. Have them think about “Old Maid”, “Trivial Pursuits”, “Jeopardy”, “Bingo”, Matching” or “So You Want to Be a Bear Biologist” as examples of formats they can try. Choose, with student input, one or two games when the assignments are due for the students to play.

Variations and Extensions:
1. Have students write a story about a grizzly’s life during one year.
2. Have them compare the grizzly and marmot winter strategies to other animals, including humans.

Self-contained in the activity.


Last updated: November 8, 2017

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