When you gotta go, you gotta go! Sometimes you can't hold it until recess or lunch. Imagine waiting all winter for a bathroom break!
Many bears hibernate for half the year, neither eating nor drinking. They live off a layer of fat built up through the summer and fall. According to the National Park Service, black bears and grizzly bears generally do not urinate (pee) or defecate (poop) while hibernating.
During hibernation, poop (and other stuff) builds up in the bear's lower intestine to form a fecal plug. The intestinal walls absorb all the fluid. The North American Bear Center notes that most northern bears remain in dens so long that they develop extra large fecal plugs. They are often found near the entrance of the den after the bear comes out.
Fecal plugs are dry and hard and actually not that smelly. Do you need to sniff it to believe it? It may look super gross, but the plug isn't entirely made of poop. There are also dead cells, hair and plant material. Scientists put cameras in dens to observe what happens. When bears groom themselves, they lick and swallow hairs, leaves, grass and bark. Even callused soles shed from their footpads — yum!
Did you know that bears are not true hibernators? Their heart rate drops and their breathing slows. But their body temperature doesn't lower as much as other hibernating animals. Parks Canada advises that bears may awaken during the winter and come out of their den. If your family goes hiking or camping, stay bear-aware all year!