So, in the winter we put on extra clothes to stay warm and turn on the heat or build a fire, but what do animals do in the winter to adapt to the cold and maybe even the snow?
Well, that depends on what kind of animal you are talking about. Birds migrate. Many of the birds we have here in the summer migrate to the tropics or to South America for the winter. But, we have lots of birds that come here for the winter and some that stay year round. When it snows they may have a harder time finding food. Some of us like to put out bird feeders to attract birds but other birds are very skilled at finding food on their own. Birds can fluff up their feathers to trap air and this is a way for the to warm up. You know how we use down comforters to help us stay warm? Well, down is a kind of feather from geese. And we fluff up those down comforters to help us stay warm, just like birds do. Some birds have to change their diet in the winter because they may eat insects in the summer but this time of year, and on a snowy day like today, it’s harder to find insects.
What about insects? Well, some insects go through a part of their life cycle like larvae or pupae in the winter. Others may just be eggs that won’t hatch until spring. Still others may spend winder in something like hibernation called diapause. We might also say they are dormant. At any rate, they don’t have to eat during this time of year.
In our area of the country only two mammals are known to hibernate: bears and chipmunks. Hibernation is a very deep sleep and the animal has eaten a lot of food before they go into this state. Bears and chipmunks are mammals but other mammals do not hibernate. So how do they stay warm and what do they eat? One way they stay warm is to grow a thicker coat. If you have a pet you may know about this thicker coat that animals can grow. They can also burrow into holes in the ground or in logs or trees. And some animals store up food for the winter. Squirrels are known for doing this. Deer, raccoons, skunks, rabbits and foxes all have to hunt for their food year round.
And what about animals that live in the water? Well, fish can go deeper in the water where it may be a bit warmer. Other animals, reptiles and amphibians, can bury themselves in the mud. They can absorb oxygen through their skin. Because they are cold-blooded they don’t need to eat since their metabolism slows down.
When the snow has stopped falling you might go looking for animal tracks in the snow. See if you can figure out what kind of animal has made the tracks and maybe you’ll learn something about how that animal survives in the snow.
Check this link for more information about animals in winter:
And this is an interesting article about tracking animals in the snow:http://www.newsminer.com/features/outdoors/snow-makes-it-easier-to-understand-and-identify-the-tracks/article_78272f85-3c38-5317-87c0-d856fa60c12c.html
Enjoy your snowy day!