Zuberoa Macros explains the hibernation process:
For five to seven-and-a-half months of the year, black and brown bears turn themselves off. They do not eat, drink, urinate, defecate or exercise. They reduce their metabolism by 50 to 75% of normal rates. They breathe once every 15 to 60 seconds and their heart rate drops from around 50 to about 10 beats per minute.
What humans can learn from from the phenomenon:
“I am convinced there is some kind of connection between hibernators and human survivors, people who have cheated death after being submerged in icy water, or buried in snow, without oxygen, for hours,” says [molecular biologist Matthew Andrews]. A lack of oxygen often kills people who have had a cardiac arrest or a stroke. About five years ago, doctors began to experiment with therapies to cool down, even temporarily, such patients’ bodies and reduce their need for oxygen. The results have been nothing short of extraordinary.
(Photo: Palle-Jooseppi, a male brown bear of Ranua Zoo, begins to wake up after winter hibernation in Ranua on February 23, 2012. By Kaisa Siren/AFP/Getty Images)