As I put on winter coats to keep my daughters warm and gear them up to deal with the cold morning, they quite innocently asked “Mom, how do animals stay warm in winter?” “Where do they go during the cold winter months?” While I tried to brush off their question, hurrying through the routine morning chores, they made me promise I will tell them all about it once they are back from school. Having written countless blogs and articles for my clients as a ghostwriter and blogger, I thought it is time I put together something especially for my girls. Hopefully, it will answer similar wide-eyed queries posed by few other kids too. So here it goes.
How Do Animals Survive Through The Winter Months?
As the days start getting shorter and the temperature drops, some people migrate south towards warmer weather, others simply put on an additional blanket on their bed to hibernate or wear their winter coat to keep warm and active. Ever wondered how do animals survive through the winter months and where do they go for their food source? Here’s how birds and animals sustain through the cold winter.
Migration: Several butterflies and birds migrate as far as Southern America to find a warmer place to live in and consistent food supply to help them survive throughout the winter. Some birds and animals, like the little brown bat and Indiana, migrate shorter distance south. They will lower their body temperature to stay warm, slow their heart rate and hibernate in the caves.
Hibernation: True hibernators such as the bear will lower their body temperature and slow their heart rate to near coma level to survive through the winter. Animals such as Groundhogs will wake up and shiver themselves warm in case their body temperature drops too low while hibernating.
Survival: Raccoons, skunks, some chipmunks and opossums are “light sleepers.” Hence, they will find solace in little sleep and move about for shelter without changing their body temperature or heart rate. During mild weather, they wake up to eat and move about in search of food.
Food Storage: The key factor for winter survival for warm-blooded animals is their food source. Maintaining body temperature needs a lot of energy. Honeybees tend to build a wax comb inside the trees for protection and will store up honey as their food source. Similarly, squirrels tend to store up nuts. They eat as much as they can and hide the rest. They will spend their whole day right from early dawn until evening in search of food while taking caution to protect themselves from becoming food.
Shelter: Unlike the butterflies and birds, bears and groundhogs, the squirrels aren’t exactly the migrating or hibernating type of creatures. They will simply find themselves a warm, cozy attic, yard or home and quietly snuggle-in to call it their own.
Insulation: Snow and ice tend to act as a protective insulator that blocks the passage of heat from the environment into your body. While some fishes remain fairly active under the layers of icy-cold water, most turtles and frogs penetrate deep and find a hiding place under the rocks, leaves and logs. Often, they find warmth by burying their little body in the mud. While on land, most reptiles, amphibians and small mammals will hide out under the leaves, grass and snow. These are the places where they hibernate. Some will cuddle-up in their nests with their young ones with stored food supply.
Adaptation: Animals that cannot store food are required to hibernate, migrate or learn to adapt. The red foxes switch their diet from berries and insects to tiny rodents. Most non-migrating birds like robins and cardinal change their diet from berries and insects to fruit and seeds. Deer will root through the snow or eat bark when the grass is covered and leaves are gone.
Changing Diet: Non-migrating birds such as the cardinal and robin will also change their diet from bugs and berries to fruits and seeds. Deers will root through the snow or eat bark when the grass is covered and leaves are gone. The red fox switches its diet from bugs and berries to small rodents.
The increasingly cold temperature of the winter months causes several different types of birds and wild animals to start looking for shelter in the warmth of indoors. Hence, you may even find a few butterflies, raccoons, squirrels, opossums or even bats paying a visit to your home. It is vital to undertake simple pest proofing and take careful precaution to protect your home from any type of wild birds or animal intrusion, especially for a few troublesome species. Create an animal friendly habitat by providing natural food sources and shelter. Plant native grass, berries, nuts and fruit producing plants. Create shelter piling up leaves, twigs and other plant items in your yard. Whether you stay home this winter or go for a winter holiday to some place warm, do not hibernate.