Retrospectacle: A Neuroscience Blog


The forests of Siberia are full of insomniac bears, scaring the locals, as the weather has been staying too warm for them to go into hibernation. Usually Siberian bears sleep six months, beginning in October or November, but the Kemerovo region where they live has currently gotten no snow.

Hunters, out in the woods stalking birds and hares now that the hunting season is open, need protection from restless bears the most, she added.

“We have observers who ensure there are no attacks on hunters.”

Bears den in dry places usually covered by snow, and wet weather makes finding a suitable “bedroom” for the winter difficult.

Russian media reported that in the Kemerovo region and other areas, normally cold and snowy by now, there are fresh buds on trees and some flowers have blossomed for the second time this year.

Hibernation is essential for many animals to survive the frigid, foodless winter. It requires that they usually stockpile a significant amount of body fat, which will be gradually depleted over the winter. During this time, metabolic processes, as well as breathing and heart rate, are much slower, and the body’s temperature drops. In bears, this is seen to a lesser extent than other ‘true hibernators’ like bats, squirrels, and rodents.

When an animal is in hibernation, a substance called HIT (hibernation induction trigger) is found in the blood—and if squirrels are injected with HIT, even during normally active periods, they go into hibernation. HIT begins to build in the system of hibernating animals as the days grow colder and shorter, therefore it makes perfect sense that the delay of cold weather in Siberia would also delay the proper release of HIT in these bears.

HIT may have uses beyond inducing hibernation; it also has a general effect of inhibiting metabolism in tissues through specific opioid receptors (the structure of HIT is similar to an opioid).This in turn induces the conservation of ATP, and a natural cellular protectant which could be useful for (for example) increasing the time that transplanted organs could be stored. It could also reduce the damage inflicted following a heart attack, as it has a positive effect on mediating the effects of ischemia (lack of oxygenated blood flow.)


  1. #1 natural cynic
    November 16, 2006

    What a threat. Stephen Colbert must be informed!!!

  2. #2 Shelley Batts
    November 16, 2006

    Why does anyone live in Siberia anyway? I thought it was nearly uninhabitable, hence the ‘send you to Siberia’ threat.

    I always kinda imagined it like that cold icy planet prison that Kirk and Bones got sent to (you know, Iman was there, and Kirk beat up an alien with balls on his knees). If you didn’t eat all your gulash they threw you out into the snow to freeze……

  3. #3 Roy
    November 16, 2006

    Siberia is pretty big, though. I think it makes up almost half of Russia’s territory. My friend’s brother actually spent a Christmas in Siberia (all over a girl). He was staying in some town along the Trans-Siberian railroad, and claimed that people were really friendly there (apparently, they bought him a *lot* of drinks), but that it was a pretty grim area. Very poor.
    I think it’s only the North part of Siberia that’s really bad. Of course, “really bad” is relative, but nothing he described sounded like the Siberia I imagined, either (I always imagined it more like Hoth, only, without the Wompa beast or those weird camel/kangeroo things they were riding, and more, you know, guys with guns and tanks).
    Thanks, though- now I’m giggling at the idea of goulash being served in gulags.

  4. #4 Shelley Batts
    November 16, 2006

    Well, what else would you serve in a gulag other than goulash? 🙂 Hopefully whist wearing your galoshes.

  5. #5 bernarda
    November 17, 2006

    Global warming is no threat because “god is still up there” according to Inhofe.

    “The warming is due to the sun”. Duh? That is a Fox News Alert. I kid you not. The Fox “news” presenters seemed surprised by the news.

  6. #6 Shelley Batts
    November 17, 2006

    Global warming due to the Sun! Bwhahahahaha!

    What did they think it was due to before? God’s Wrath at the homosexuals?

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