Creature Feature

Creature Feature – Weathering the Winter

Posted by  //  January 24, 2024  //  Articles, Creature Feature

Not all animals hibernate through winter or escape by migrating south.  Instead, they enter the season with no guarantee of survival, enduring months of freezing rain, biting winds, deep snow, and bone-chilling cold.  Some creatures, like beavers, build shelters to shield them from the worst weather, while others must take advantage of what Mother Nature provides in their surroundings.

When they’re not hunting, foxes spend time curled up in places offering protection from the elements:  under brush piles and shrubs, or in dense thickets.  They rely on plush fur to stay warm and will wrap their bushy tail over their face like a cozy scarf.  In extreme weather, foxes might dig a shelter or take refuge in an abandoned den excavated by another animal.

In winter, ruffed grouse grow specialized bristly scales on their feet that act as snowshoes and shift to residency in more mature forests.  When snow cover is scarce or the ground is icy, they’ll roost among densely needled conifers.  Grouse will also plunge headfirst into deep, fluffy snow to stay snug and conserve energy, because there, in the subnivean zone, temperatures stay much warmer than the air.

Bobcats often utilize numerous shelters over the winter consisting of one main den and several supporting nooks.  The main den is typically a cave or other rocky shelter, inside a hollow log, or under a fallen tree.  Secondary refuges fall within less traveled areas of the home range and include brush piles, stumps, and rock ledges.  When snow starts to pile up, bobcats must endure confined stretches in their shelters waiting out the worst conditions, since they can’t afford to waste energy moving through deep powder.

Fishers have very thick fur which helps keep them cozy as they travel over many miles of frozen landscape in search of prey and suitable cover.  They, too, find refuge from extreme conditions inside hollow trees and logs, rock crevices, or within dens dug by other animals.

One has to admire these cold weather warriors and their ability to survive a north country winter!

Article & photo by Margie Manthey

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