What Do Animals Do During the Winter?
When the snow starts falling and the temperatures drop, we humans love nothing more than to snuggle up with a blanket and a mug of hot chocolate. But what do animals do during the winter? People aren’t the only ones who switch gears when the seasons change. Many animals engage in very particular behaviors to help them survive the winter months. You might even spot some of these behaviors in your own pets.
Hibernation: We might joke about hibernating until spring, but what *is* hibernation? Scientifically speaking, hibernation is a state of decreased activity and lowered metabolism. Animals who are hibernating literally “turn down” their body’s activity levels to conserve energy. This is important when food is scarce and having enough stored energy to live through the winter is not a guarantee. Many people think of hibernation in reference to bears but many mammals such as rodents also hibernate.
Because metabolic rates are so low in hibernating animals, it is crucial not to disturb them. Doing so could inadvertently raise their heart rate and cause them to burn precious energy stores. An early awakening could mean they lack sufficient resources to survive through the winter. An entire colony of bats can be killed by only a few minutes of activity in the middle of the winter. Please, if you find a hibernating animal, leave them alone-you could save their life.
Fun fact: “brumation” is the term used for a decreased level of activity in reptiles and amphibians. Most bromate in cold, dark areas such as stone walls or under houses. Although it might seem similar to hibernation, they are scientifically two very different processes.
Migration: If you can’t take the cold, get out of the forest! When spending the winter in a chilly climate isn’t an option, some animals choose to hit the road for warmer areas. Butterflies, birds, and bats all opt to fly the friendly skies to higher temperatures. Come spring most return to their original roosting grounds to feed and reproduce.
Adapt: Other animals meet winter head on and change their appearance or behavior for winter survival. Snowshoe hares develop a pure white coat which enables them to hide from predators in the snow. Rabbits and deer change their diet to the moss and twigs available just under the snow. Red foxes, who typically have a wide and varied diet, consume mostly small rodents during the winter months.
As you can see, animal life has a number of ways to cope with cold temperatures. Different species will hibernate, migrate, and adapt to survive-all so they can enjoy the sunny spring days at the end of winter.
I hope this article has helped you learn what animals do in the winter and how they survive.