There is no overstating the fact that the Arctic Tundra is a cold and unforgiving place. There are few plants or animals that can survive in this extremely chilly territory, but the humble arctic squirrel has discovered a means of coping with the challenges.
So how does the arctic squirrel do it? With hibernation of course! This little critter hibernates for the full extent of the Winter season, a long and extensive eight-month slumber in which it barely breathes, and its heartrate slows to an absolute crawl. In fact, the arctic squirrel’s hibernation pattern is the longest and deepest of any other known animal on Earth.
When the Winter season comes to an end, the arctic squirrel’s internal body clock lets him know that it’s finally time to wake up. The creature emerges from its burrow for a quick look around, and he immediately begins marking his territory to keep rival males from stepping on his turf. A few days later, the females start to emerge from their burrows.
Female arctic squirrels are only fertile for a 12-hour period all year long, giving the male a limited window of opportunity to reproduce. After the male approaches the female, she accepts his love and they make their way into her burrow to do their thing.
It’s not until after this vital work is done that the male squirrel can go out in search of food.