The bears at Helsinki’s Korkeasaari Zoo have woken up from their winter hibernation. The zoo's two female brown bears, aged 17 and 22, went into hibernation in early November.
Staff estimate that each bear lost about 50 kilos during the winter, or about a quarter of their weight. Not surprisingly, they were eager for the apples, carrots and salads offered by zoo staff. The bears will only eat light vegetarian fare until their appetite returns to normal after a couple of weeks.
Mother and daughter, named Sofia and Yulia, slept in their winter den for more than three months. In recent years, the zoo's bears have usually woken up from their hibernation in February.
According to wardens, the bears slept exceptionally well this time, and did not wake up at all during hibernation. During the previous winter, they had an unpleasant awakening just before Christmas, when a burst water pipe partially flooded their den.
According to Korkeasaari staff, fresh snow that fell overnight encouraged the bears to play outside on Saturday.
Wrestling and galloping
“When the hatch to their yard opened, the bears first sniffed the air a little and returned to their winter den. Soon, however, they marched out one after the other, said Korkeasaari spokesperson Mari Lehmonen.
The bears immediately began rubbing their backs against trees before rolling around in the snow, sliding down hills and digging up the fresh grass from under the snow.
“They also wrestled with each other and galloped around the yard,” said Lehmonen.
The bears may still return the winter den to nap. They still can't remain active for long, and in the first week tend to head back indoors around 2 pm, some three hours before sunset.
“Now, at first, the bears are excited by the snow and are sprinting around the yard, but they also get tired faster,” said Lehmonen.
Last year there were an estimated 2,400 wild bears in Finland.