You may have heard of March Madness, the college basketball tournament in the US 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, so be sure to follow our social media channels for the latest 'March Napness' updates and a chance to play along with our weekly match up polls.
You can read the latest updates here.
Meet the bears in the running for the crown:
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 dug their own den.
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: 2001
Bobby is a very calm bear who loves posing for pictures! His favourite 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.
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: June 2008
Kvitka 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.
Rescue Date: 2019
Meimo and Amelia live together at the sanctuary. They even hibernate together in their den, but we'll see if they wake up at the same time!
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!
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.
25th of April:
We have a Winner!
Mascha is the sleepiest bear! Congratulations to Mascha and everyone at BEAR SANCTUARY Müritz for winning the March Napness Bracket Challenge!
Our runner up, Ari from BEAR SANCTUARY Prishtina in Kosovo, put up quite the sleepy battle, but this handsome boy decided he’d had just the right amount of sleep and emerged from his den several days ago.
Mascha, who continues to hibernate in her den at Müritz, is technically the last one to know that she is the champion! We will continue to monitor her hibernation, and when she awakens, she will receive a special enrichment with her favourite treats as a reward.
Did you pick Mascha as the Sleepy Champion? Let us know how far you made it in the March Napness Bracket Challenge on our social media channels!
18th of April:
11th of April:
Partners Amelia & Meimo from Arosa Bear Sanctuary in Switzerland both awoke last week. Though they are eliminated from the competition, they will remain co-champions of Arosa. We think it’s pretty sweet that this pair woke up together!
Now it’s down to the Final Two! Mascha and Ari have outslept 19 other bears from around the world. Who do you think has the Zzzz’s to snooze their way to the sleepy bear crown?
Share your predictions with us on social media and be sure to follow us for all the latest updates as March Napness comes to its exciting conclusion!
4th of April:
It may be April, but March Napness is still going strong. This week, two more bears awoke from hibernation, giving us our Final Four sleeping champions!
Svetla, BEAR SANCTUARY Belitsa’s most sleepy bear, decided she was ready to meet the Bulgarian sunshine this week. And at BEAR SANCTUARY Prishtina in Kosovo, the veteran, Ari, has outslept the youngster, Andri, to become Prishtina’s champion hibernator this year. Ari is tall, dark & handsome, and at 20 years-old, he knows a thing or two about getting his beauty sleep!
Joining Ari in the Final Four are partners Amelia and Meimo from our Arosa Bear Sanctuary in Switzerland. Will this duo remain in sleep synchronicity and share a co-championship? Or will one outsleep the other?
Also in the Final Four is bear Mascha, our BEAR SANCTUARY Müritz champ. Mascha is another veteran hibernator, at age 29, and this is her first winter hibernating without her partner, Otto, who passed away last summer. After the difficulties she has faced in life, we think Mascha deserves to get as much rest as she'd like. Will she win the sleepiest bear award in honor of her former loved one? Or will Ari, Amelia or Meimo outlast her?
Share your predictions on our social media channels!
28th of March:
The last week of March brings some exciting developments in our March Napness competition! Two more bears woke up this week, and we officially have our Final Four sanctuaries!
Bear Potap, who was our BEAR SANCTUARY Domazhyr champion, decided he was ready to wake up and greet the springtime. We are sorry to see this fan favourite eliminated from the competition, but we are glad to see this sweet bear up and about his enclosure. Unfortunately, this means that Domazhyr, our Ukrainian sanctuary, has no more bears in the competition. However, you can still stay up to date on Potap and all his bear friends on BEAR SANCTUARY Domazhyr’s social media.
Bear Stivi from BEAR SANCTUARY Prishtina in Kosovo also awoke from hibernation this week. Stivi, who is known as the most relaxed bear at the sanctuary, can now get back to his favourite springtime activities: chewing grass, resting by his pool, and posing for pictures with his tongue hanging out.
Prishtina still has two bears in the running for the sleepy champ: 20 year old Ari and 4 year old Andri. These two bears will sleep it out in the semi-final to see who will be crowned BEAR SANCTUARY Prishtina’s most sleepy bear. Who do you think will win? The veteran Ari, who has dark brown fur and always strikes a pose when photographers are around? Or the new kid on the block, Andri, who has light brown fur and loves to swim on hot days?
Still in the race as well are bears Amelia & Meimo from Arosa Bear Sanctuary in Switzerland. Since they live together at Arosa, this sleepy race is one of the hardest to call. Will the partners awaken at the same time or will one outlast the other?
Germany’s BEAR SANCTUARY Müritz champion, Mascha is still sleeping strong. As is Bulgaria’s BEAR SANCTUARY Belitsa champion Svetla. Mascha is a very self-confident and dominant bear, while Svetla is known for being rather introverted and peaceful. How will this match up between extrovert and introvert play out? As April approaches, we’ll see who wakes up next and who continues sleeping into the finals!
Want to share your March Napness predictions? Follow us on social media and let us know which bear you think has the skills to sleep all the way to the championship!
21st of March:
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.
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!
14th of March:
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 quarterfinalists! 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.
7th of March:
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 – who can blame him! Unfortunately, that means he is no longer in the competition.
Meanwhile, several 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 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 will 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 is 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.