Wildlife in Winter


For humans, the arrival of colder weather means evenings indoors with hot cocoa, a warm fire and the frenetic yet wonderful arrival of the holiday season. We combat winter with coats, scarves and our snug houses. But how does wildlife cope with the changing seasons?

Animals have developed some amazing strategies to survive the winter months. Although each individual is unique, most plans fall into one of three basic categories: sleep, stay or move away.

For the groundhog (woodchuck), sleeping the winter away is the best option. When putting on weight to prepare for its four-month nap, a groundhog can eat more than a pound of vegetation in one sitting. That’s like a 150-pound person eating a 15-pound steak for dinner!

Some birds choose the “move away” option of migrating to warmer climates. The eastern screech owl, on the other hand, sticks with the “stay” strategy. It remains awake and active year-round. Sunny winter afternoons are some of the best times to catch a glimpse of this small, shy raptor as it sits in the entrance hole to its hollow tree shelter basking in the sunlight.

Eastern screech owl_FWNP_2013.11.21

Whether they choose to sleep, stay or move away, wild animals are well-equipped to ride out the season. And just like us, they do their best to survive until the return of warmer weather in the spring!

To learn more, join me at Sharon Woods on Saturday, December 28, at 3 p.m. for our Sleep, Stay or Move Away program.

Angela Marczi, Naturalist, Sharon Woods