Top 10 Animals that Hibernate (Excluding Bears)

Written by AZ Animals Staff
Published: December 17, 2020
Written by AZ Animals Staff
Published: December 17, 2020

Bears sleep through winter, but are there other animals that hibernate? The answer is yes! And today, we’re counting them down. Ready? Let’s go!

#10 Hibernating Animal: Ground Squirrel

Unlike tree squirrels, many ground squirrels are all about burrowing. 

With their brown fur and long claws, ground squirrels look near-identical to their arboreal-dwelling cousins. But instead of using their nails to climb, ground squirrels use them as shovels.

Dozens of ground squirrel species roam the earth — and not all hibernate. But sweetly, the ones that settle in for a long winter’s nap do so alongside friends and family. How cozy!

Ground Squirrel Fun Fact: Mama ground squirrels chew on shed snakeskin and then lick it onto their babies to obscure their natural scents — an effective safeguard against predation.

Click here to learn more about squirrels, which can find food a foot below snow.

Ground squirrel holding a piece of carrot with its mouth open.
Instead of using their nails to climb like tree squirrels, ground squirrels use them to burrow.

#9 Hibernating Animal: Chipmunk

They love to eat nuts, frolic with friends, and a trio made it all the way to Hollywood! They’re chipmunks — and many hibernate for the winter. 

During the fall, chipmunks pack their cheeks with acorns and stockpile food in burrows, which are usually about 3-feet underground. When subterranean, their temperatures plummet, and they sleep 23/7, occasionally waking to nosh on nuts. But once springtime sweeps in, chipmunks wake and immediately get to the business of play! 

Chipmunk Fun Fact: Humans need about eight hours of sleep a day. Chipmunks need a whopping 15!

Click here to read more about Chipmunks, the world’s most adorable rodents.

Chipmunk shoving a peanut into its mouth.
During the fall, chipmunks pack their cheeks with acorns and stockpile food in burrows, which are usually about 3 feet underground.

#8 Hibernating Animal: Wood Frog

Wood frogs drift into natural cryogenic states every winter: their bodies freeze, yet they remain alive! When slumbering, wood frogs look dead, but don’t worry, they’re just sleeping — deeply! 

Wood frogs don’t dig deep hibernation holes. Instead, they typically settle in just below ground. Often, piles of leaves or bark suit their needs. Once in place, they power down their respiratory and cardiovascular systems. That’s right: they’re hearts stop pumping! Then their body water turns to ice, and the hibernation shutdown is complete. When spring blooms, wood frogs thaw out and prepare for mating season.

Wood Frog Fun Fact: Wood frogs are the most northern dwelling amphibian in North America. Populations even exist in the Arctic Circle!

A wood frog mid-leap.
Wood frogs settle just below the ground surface to hibernate, and their bodies literally freeze until spring.

#7 Hibernating Animal: Garter Snake

Garter snakes in cold climates hibernate through the winter — and for garters, it’s a communal event. The reptiles slither long distances to find perfect hibernation huddles, and they pack into burrows like slapjacks — one on top of the other. Scientists once stumbled on a garter hibernation den with over 8,000 snakes!

Garter snakes carry trace amounts of venom that stun small animals, but it’s virtually harmless to humans, and many folks keep the reptiles as pets.

Garter Snake Fun Fake: Like nearly all snakes, garter snakes swallow their food whole.

A curled up Garter snake.
Garter snakes travel hibernate in groups and stack themselves into burrows on top of each other.

#6 Hibernating Animal: Bat

Some species of bats, the Earth’s only flying mammals, hibernate. Ones that live in or migrate to warmer shores don’t, but those that make their homes in colder climates hunker down between late fall and mid-March.

Like most hibernating animals, bats’ temperatures nosedive for winter sleeps. But unlike some hibernators, bats don’t need to eat during their slumber. They simply shut down for six months and snooze 24/7.

If you have an attic, keep an eye out for hibernating bats. They have no problem flying in and setting up shop. As far as they’re concerned, su casa es their casa!

Bat Fun Fact: If bats disappeared, so would bananas, avocados, and mangoes.

Read more about bats, which use echolocation to get around.

Three bats mid-flight.
Bats that hibernate can go six months without eating.

#5 Hibernating Animal: Common Poorwill

Common poorwills are birds that live up and down North America’s west coast. But instead of flying south for the winter, the ones in the north stay put and hunker down in hollow trees and logs.

In the fall, poorwills feast on insects. During hibernation, their bodies extract nutrients from the digested and stored bug fat. 

Common Poorwill Fun Fact: Common poorwills are the only known hibernating bird, and they look like mini owls.

A common poorwill resting on a wooden fence.
Common poorwills are the only bird known to hibernate.

#4 Hibernating Animal: Fat-Tailed Dwarf Lemurs

You can find the adorable primates in Madagascar’s dry forests, but don’t search in the cold months — because fat-tailed dwarf lemurs hibernate. About five fat-tails will curl up together in a hollow tree to sleep the winter away. Their heart rate slows, as does their metabolism, and their bodies instinctively survive on fat storage. 

Fat-Tailed Dwarf Lemur Fun Fact: Hibernating lemurs can slow their standard 800-beats-per-minute heart rate to just eight beats per minute!

A close-up side profile of a lemur.
Fat tailed dwarf lemurs hibernate in groups.

#3 Hibernating Animal: Hedgehog

Some hedgehogs — porcupine lookalikes — hibernate in small, dry, protected areas far away from predators. You can usually find them sleeping in abandoned rabbit holes, under woodpiles, and even in compost heaps!

To survive hibernation, they need to weigh at least 600 grams. During the dormant period, their body temperatures lower to match their surroundings, their heart rates drop, and they’ll cease breathing for a while.

Hedgehog Fun Fact: Hedgehogs are immune to snake venom. Yes, hedgehogs battle snakes — and often win!

Click to read more about hedgehogs, which are one of the oldest animals on Earth.

A baby hedgehog curled up in a person's hand.
To survive hibernation, hedgehogs need to weigh at least 600 grams.

#2 Hibernating Animal: Bumblebees

Where do bumblebees go during the winter? Sadly, most die in the fall, but queen bumblebees build hibernation hideouts for autumn and winter. In the spring, they start new colonies. Some buzzy ladies hibernate for up to nine months without eating anything!

Where do bumblebees hibernate? Mostly in strategically positioned dirt holes alee the winter sun. 

Bumblebee Fun Fact: Bumblebees have smelly feet!

Learn more about bumblebees, which are the most common type of bee.

A close-up of a bumblebee perched on a purple flower.
Most bumblebees die during the fall, but the queen hibernates and builds new colonies every spring.

#1 Hibernating Animal: Box Turtles

Box turtles — the popular pet and wild animal — hibernate.

Unlike other animals that must make or find adequate hibernation accommodations, box turtles simply crawl inside their shells. They usually tuck in sometime between mid-September or early October and stay that way for three to four months. 

Box Turtle Fun Fact: Box turtles have a soft shell until they’re seven years old.

A box turtle tucked into its shell.
To hibernate, box turtles simply crawl inside their shells for up to four months.

And there you have it, a list of animals that hibernate, which aren’t bears! Next up: The 10 Best Dogs for Apartment Living.

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