10 Neat Things about wildlife in winter
1. Bulking up.
While many animals hibernate or hide away in dens in winter, others just bulk up by eating themselves silly all through fall. Deer and wild turkeys would be two examples. Deer will add about 30 per cent to their weight during the fall months, eating acorns and other nuts and fruits. Wild turkeys also eat acorns, but if they get too fat they can’t fly, so they don’t bulk up as much.
2. Living off their fat.
Deer can live off their fat for several months but they rely on mosses, bark and twigs in the darkest days of winter, in late December, January and February. Wild turkeys forage on the ground for nuts seed and grubs, but when the snow gets too deep they rely on tree buds.
3. Closed eyes and bushy tails.
Foxes are good at winter. They can just lie down on top of the snow, close their eyes and wrap their warm bushy tail around themselves to keep warm. If snow falls, so be it. They are snug and warm.
4. Snow bound.
Squirrels, raccoons, chipmunks and some rabbits and foxes try to find a cozy den to stay safe from the coldest days and big snow storms. They can go for up to 10 days at a time without eating to wait out the weather.
5. Keeping warm.
Animals use different strategies to keep warm. Some find shivering useful to generate heat, but it helps if you have a warm coat to begin with. Deer, who shed twice a year, put on a warm coat in fall. The outer hairs are hollow to provide insulation, and the inner coat is a thick fur, five times denser than their outer coat (and four times denser than sheep’s wool). In summer, they lose the fur, and the outer coat is made up of solid hair shafts. Birds can fluff up their feathers, to stay warm by trapping air inside. Some frogs produce a kind of antifreeze, which allows them to become frog-cycles and then revive in springtime.
6. Bird strategies.
Besides fluffing their feathers, some birds will huddle together to keep warm. Others tuck their bills under their wings and will stand on one leg to minimize heat loss. Some grow extra feathers in fall. Many are good at taking advantage of sunny days by soaking up as much sun as they can, turning their backs to its warmth. While the average bird body temperature is 105 F (40 C), some can enter a state of torpor where their body temperature drops by as much as 50 F (10 C).
Deer get ready for winter by bulking up for the cold days ahead.