Which bear will be the champion of sleep?
You may have heard of March Madness, the college basketball tournament which celebrates human athletes. Well, we want to celebrate our bear athletes: The masters of sleep!
As you know, FOUR PAWS houses over 100 rescued bears throughout its 6 bear sanctuaries across the globe. The coolest thing about these bears is that even though they may have been born in captivity, they can still learn to hibernate when given the proper accommodations. And like clockwork, every spring, our bears arise from their winter nap: A miracle of science and the ultimate extreme sport!
To celebrate this spring’s awakenings, FOUR PAWS is conducting a bracket style tournament to crown the champion of sleep! 21 bears will be “competing” from 6 of our bear sanctuaries around the world to see who remains in hibernation the longest. We’ll be updating you weekly on who is still asleep and who has awakened; read our latest update for the week of March 21.
How to get involved
If you want to play along at home, you can download and fill in your own March Napness Bracket.
Then, be sure to follow our social media channels and share your predictions for who will win the title of "Sleepiest Bear"!
We'll be sharing all the latest updates on social media, and you will also have the opportunity to participate in our March Napness prediction polls.
Meet the bears in the running for the crown:
BEAR SANCTUARY Müritz, Germany
Rescue Date: June 2019
Luna is a nervous, curious bear and a late sleeper. She always digs her den in November, but this year she got a late start.
Rescue Date: 2011
Michal started hibernating just after Christmas this year, and he wakes up at different times every year, so he is a true wild card!
Rescue Date: 2006
Mascha starts hibernating quite early in November. She usually digs her own den, but this year, so opted for a pre-made den.
Pavle & Sylvia
Rescue Date: 2017
Pavle & Sylvia are siblings who were rescued from a circus. They usually hibernate inside the bear house, but this year, they ventured outside to dig their own den.
BEAR SANCTUARY Arbesbach, Austria
Rescued: June 2015
Erich is a gentle bear who loves swimming. He is the only bear who hibernates at Arbesbach, making his den with straw.
BEAR SANCTUARY Belitsa, Bulgaria
Rescue Date: 2019
Suzana is a very curious bear who can be a bit camera shy. She loves plums, apricots, and cherries, and she usually starts hibernating in late October.
Rescue Date: 2005
Marinka is a former "dancing bear" who loves enrichments and watermelon. She is always the first bear to hibernate at Belitsa.
Rescue Date: 2001
Bobby is a very calm bear who loves posing for pictures! His favorite food is fish, and he usually hibernates from October to early April.
Rescue Date: 2007
Svetla is a very introverted bear, who enjoys peace and quiet. She usually starts hibernating in late October and sleeps through mid-April.
BEAR SANCTUARY Domazhyr, Ukraine
Rescue Date: March 2022
Vova is a very curious and playful bear who can often be seen playing with logs. We are so happy that he was able to hibernate during his first winter at the sanctuary!
Rescue Date: October 2007
Potap was the very first bear at Domazhyr. He loves to eat melons and oranges, but his favorite food is fish! Potap lives with bear Masha, but they hibernate separately.
Rescue Date: June 2008
Kvitka, which means flower, is a very gentle and cautious bear. She often takes breaks from hibernating, and can be seen walking around her enclosure sometimes in winter.
Sirko & Ruta
Rescue Date: June 2021
Sirko & Ruta are mates who were rescued together from a restaurant in Ukraine. They still play together often, and they hibernate together as well.
Arosa Bear Sanctuary, Switzerland
Rescue Date: 2019
Amelia is a former "restaurant bear" who was rescued along with Meimo. They live together and even hibernate in the same den! Check out their live web cam here.
Rescue Date: 2019
Meimo was rescued alongside Amelia, and the two live together at the sanctuary. They even hibernate together in their den, but we'll see if they wake up at the same time! Check out their live web cam here.
Rescue Date: May 2022
Sam and his sister Jamila were rescued from a zoo where they lived in separate concrete pits. This winter will be the first hibernation of his life! You can check out his live webcam here.
Rescue Date: May 2022
Jamila lived alone in a concrete pit for 18 years, so she never had a chance to hibernate before coming to Arosa. This winter is her first ever hibernation! You can check out Jamila's webcam here.
BEAR SANCTUARY Prishtina, Kosovo
Rescue Date: June 2019
Andri was rescued when he was just a small cub. He is a very calm and relaxed bear who loves swimming and eating apples.
Rescue Date: March 2014
Oska was rescued along with Ema and Ron when they were just 1 month old. The three have lived together at Prishtina ever since!
Rescue Date: May 2013
Stivi had a rough start to life and was a very fearful and nervous bear when he first arrived at Prishtina. Nowadays, he is a very happy and relaxed bear!
Rescue Date: May 2013
Ari is a very goodnatured bear who lives along with his mate Rina. He has a very good appetite and loves to eat all fruits and vegetables.
March Napness Bracket
Who will be crowned the Sleepiest Bear?
We'll update the March Napness bracket weekly. If you want to play along, be sure to follow our social media channels.
Want to play along at home?
Download your own March Napness bracket below.
March 21 Update:
Some big surprises in this week’s March Napness competition! Bear Luna, who was widely considered a top contender for sleepiest bear, is officially awake. Luna often sleeps until mid-April, but this year, she decided she had all the rest she needed by mid-March. Our other BEAR SANCTUARY Müritz contenders also provided more surprises this week: partners Sylvia & Pavle are officially awake, as is Michal. This means that Mascha has entered the semi-finals as the Müritz champ! Does she have enough sleepiness to power her way into the finals? Only time will tell.
Also entering the semi-finals this week is Potap from BEAR SANCTUARY Domazhyr in Ukriane who outlasted his sleepy match up with partners Sirko & Ruta.
At BEAR SANCTUARY Prishtina in Kosovo, Oska awakened this week, deciding he was ready to join his enclosure mates Roni and Ema for some playtime. Meanwhile, Andri, Stivi, and Ari still remain in hibernation.
And we had another bracket buster at BEAR SANCTUARY Belitsa in Bulgaria. Last week, Belitsa still had 3 bears in the competition, but both Bobby and Marinka called it quits this week, sending Svetla into the semi-finals as Belitsa’s sleepyhead champion.
At Arosa Bear Sanctuary in Switzerland, Jamila decided she is ready for spring. This puts Amelia and Meimo in a head-to-head match up for the Arosa semi-final slot. Amelia and Meimo have been hibernating in the same den, but they are competing separately, so it will be interesting to see if they emerge at the same time or if one bear outlasts the other!
Who do you think will make it into the championship round? Share your March Napness predictions with us on our social media channels!
March 14 Update:
Rise and shine! This week, 4 bears decided to leave their dens and greet the springtime: Suzana from BEAR SANCTUARY Belitsa, Sam from Arosa Bear Sanctuary, and both Vova and Kvitka from BEAR SANCTUARY Domazhyr. While these 4 have been eliminated from our competition, 16 bears are still in the running for the Sleepiest Bear title!
At BEAR SANCTUARY Domazhyr in Ukraine, we have our first quarter-finalists! The elimination of Vova and Kvitka means that Potap and mates Sirko & Ruta are moving on to the next round. Potap, who was the very first bear at Domazhyr, has been active in the mornings, but he goes back into his den in the afternoons. Will he soon decide to wake up for good or will Sirko & Ruta emerge from their den first?
The four bears at BEAR SANCTUARY Müritz are still in the running. Luna has made a few appearances outside, but so far she’s always snuggled back into her den. All the other bears from BEAR SANCTUARY Prishtina, BEAR SANCTUARY Belitsa, and Arosa Bear Sanctuary are still sleeping soundly.
Who do you think will wake up next, and who do you think has the willpower to sleep the spring away?
You can share your predictions with us on our social media channels.
March 7 Update:
Bear Erich from BEAR SANCTUARY Arbesbach is awake! Erich decided he is ready for the Austrian spring, and he is the first bear to officially end his hibernation. He was just too eager to start the new year and enjoy the sunshine - and who can blame him! Unfortunately, that means he is no longer in the competition.
Meanwhile, several of the bears have been seen outside their dens, but they are not yet officially out of hibernation. Our sanctuaries consider a bear’s hibernation to be over when they are active for 5 consecutive days.
Bear Marinka from BEAR SANCTUARY Beltisa in Bulgaria made a few appearances outside of her den, but she then snuggled back in for more rest.
The Arosa bears in Switzerland have also been a little more active than usual, but with the upcoming snow forecast, their care staff predicts they'll bundle back up in their dens this week.
At BEAR SANCTUARY Muritz in Germany, both Luna and Michal have made brief appearances, but are mostly remaining in their dens.
All four bears at BEAR SANCTUARY Domazhyr in Ukraine have been waking up for periods of time before heading back to their dens to rest.
And at BEAR SANCTUARY Prishtina in Kosovo, bears Stivi and Andri have been spotted enjoying the sunshine on several different days. It will be interesting to see if they spend more and more time outdoors or if they decide to head back to bed!
Everyone else remains with their (sleepy)head in the game, which means that it's really anyone's guess who will win the Sleepiest Bear Award this year.
Who do you think will wake up next? Be sure to follow us on social media to share your guesses, and if you want to play along at home, you can download your own bracket here.
FOUR PAWS is the global animal welfare organization for animals under direct human influence, which reveals suffering, rescues animals in need, and protects them. Founded in 1988 in Vienna by Heli Dungler and friends, the organization advocates for a world where humans treat animals with respect, empathy, and understanding. FOUR PAWS’ sustainable campaigns and projects focus on companion animals including stray dogs and cats, farm animals and wild animals – such as bears, big cats, and orangutans – kept in inappropriate conditions as well as in disaster and conflict zones. With offices in Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, France, Germany, Kosovo, the Netherlands, Switzerland, South Africa, Thailand, Ukraine, the UK, the USA and Vietnam, as well as sanctuaries for rescued animals in eleven countries, FOUR PAWS provides rapid help and long-term solutions. www.fourpawsusa.org