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How Do Animals Survive Through The Winter Months?

As I put on winter coats to keep my daughters warm and prepare them to face the cold morning, I was asked quite innocently “Mom, how do animals keep warm in the winter?” “Where do they go in the cold winter months?” While I tried to get past their question, rushing about the daily morning chores, they made me promise to tell them all about it once they got home from school. Having written countless blogs and articles for my clients as a ghostwriter and blogger, I thought it was time to make something specifically for my girls. Hopefully it will answer similar open-eyed questions that a few other kids are asking. So there you go.

How do animals survive the winter months?

As the days start to get shorter and the temperature drops, some people migrate south to warmer weather, others simply put an extra blanket on their bed to hibernate or put on their winter coat to stay warm and active. Have you ever wondered how animals survive the winter months and where they go for their food source? See how birds and animals survive the cold winter.

Immigration: Many butterflies and birds migrate all the way to South America to find a warmer place to live and a steady supply of food to help them survive through the winter. Some birds and animals, such as the little brown bat and the Indiana bat, migrate a shorter distance south. They will lower their body temperature to stay warm, slow their heart rate and hibernate in caves.

Hibernation: True hibernators, like the bear, will lower their body temperature and slow their heart rate to near comatose levels to survive the winter. Animals like Groundhogs will wake up and shiver hot if their body temperature drops too low while hibernating.

Survival: Raccoons, skunks, some chipmunks, and opossums are “light sleepers.” Therefore, they will find solace in a little sleep and move for shelter without changing their body temperature or heart rate. When the weather is mild, they wake up to eat and move in search of food.

Pantry: The key factor in winter survival for warm-blooded animals is their food source. Maintaining body temperature takes a lot of energy. Bees tend to build a comb of wax inside the trees for protection and store honey as a food source. Similarly, squirrels tend to store nuts. They eat as much as they can and hide the rest. They will spend their entire day from early dawn until dusk in search of food, being careful to protect themselves from becoming food.

Refuge: Unlike butterflies and birds, bears and porcupines, squirrels aren’t exactly the kind of creatures that migrate or hibernate. They’ll just find a warm, cozy attic, yard, or house and snuggle up quietly to call it their own.

Insulation: Snow and ice tend to act as a protective insulator that prevents heat from the environment from passing into your body. While some fish remain quite active under layers of icy-cold water, most turtles and frogs penetrate deep and find a hiding place under rocks, leaves and logs. Often, they find warmth by burying their bodies in the mud. While on land, most reptiles, amphibians and small mammals will hide under leaves, grass and snow. These are the places where they hibernate. Some will cuddle up in their nests with their young with stored food.

Adjustment: Animals that cannot store food must hibernate, migrate, or learn to adapt. Red foxes change their diet from berries and insects to tiny rodents. Most non-migratory birds, such as robins and cardinals, change their diet from berries and insects to fruits and seeds. Deer will root through snow or eat bark when the grass is covered and the leaves are gone.

Diet change: Non-migratory birds such as the cardinal and robin will also change their diet from bugs and berries to fruits and seeds. Deer will root through snow or eat bark when the grass is covered and the leaves are gone. The red fox changes its diet from bugs and berries to small rodents.

The increasingly cold winter months are causing many different types of birds and wildlife to begin seeking shelter in the warmth of indoors. Therefore, you might even find some butterflies, raccoons, squirrels, opossums or even bats visiting your home. It is vital to take simple pest control and take careful precautions to protect your home from any kind of wild bird or animal invasion, especially for some nuisance species. Create an animal-friendly environment by providing natural food sources and shelter. Plant native grasses, berries, nuts and fruit-producing plants. Create shelter by piling leaves, twigs and other plant material in your yard. Whether you’re staying home this winter or taking a winter vacation somewhere warm, don’t hibernate.

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