Wednesday, December 18, 2013

What Do Animals Do in the Winter? Oh Deer...

Post contributed by David from Conservation Corps Youth Outdoors Crew2:

Winter is here and won’t be going away anytime soon. As humans, we have adapted a variety of ways to get us through these harsh winter months. We often put on more weight by consuming fatty comfort foods and plenty of holiday cookies. We sleep much more, because who would want to leave their nice warm bed when its 15 below outside. Some fly south to warmer climates, while many layer up and brave the cold (some even relish in it).  There are many ways that we handle the cold, and it might surprise you to learn that we share many adaptations for surviving the winter with animals.

Look at how thick their winter coats are!
Let's begin with the animals that we are more closely related too. Mammals have two main choices when preparing for winter: will they spend it huddled up somewhere safe asleep, or will they endure the cold and be active throughout the winter months? Deer are one example of mammals that stay active during the winter, and they have many adaptations to help them out. Like most animals, they began preparing long before the winter starts by eating protein and fat dense foods, bulking up to create an insulating fat layer and to provide an energy reserve to get them through when food is much more scarce. They will also trade their thinner summer coat for a much thicker layer of fur to keep them warm. A behavior strategy that they adopt is to form large social groups, which creates the advantage of being able to huddle together for warmth, and makes it easier for them to move around in the snow. 

Today's post kicks off a four-part blog about the many ways animals deal with the harsh Minnesota winters, so stay tuned for more!