Winter is Coming!
Winter is well on its way here, snow is in the air and temperatures are dropping. Are you prepared? The animals definitely are, thanks to their unique adaptations that allow them to stay cozy and happy all winter long. What do animals do to help them survive?
Not only do humans feel nice and cozy inside of their homes. But wildlife, reptiles included seek shelter in dens, trees, or under logs and leaves for extra heat.
Stop Expending Energy!
Many wild animals will enter a state where their metabolism and heart rate decrease. In general animals will also stop eating during this time of "dormancy". When a reptile enters this dormant state, they are said to begin brumation. Their metabolic rate and heart rate slows, but they are still active and aware. Bears and larger mammals will enter topor. Torpor is a state of decreased physiological activity in an animal, usually by a reduced body temperature and metabolic rate. Torpor enables animals to survive periods of reduced food availability.
Finally some smaller animals will experience true hibernation. This state, similar to torpor, in that an animals body temperature and metabolic rate are reduced. However, true hibernation takes many hours to awaken from, where as torpor can be broken in an hour or less. In all cases, animals must stock up on food, in order for their bodies to burn through fat and allow them to "sleep" through winter!
Some animals, not only birds, will move from one location to another in order to survive the winter. Not only will migration, or this movement allow animals to live in a warmer, less harsh climate, but also allows for them to have ample food throughout the winter months.
Birds are Unique
Do you think that all bird species migrate? Well, think again!
Some birds will survive winter by molting, which allows them to camouflage, as well as grow in warmer down feathers for insulation.
Birds will also change their diets, to eat winter fruits and seeds because they are more plenty instead of worms and insects.
Finally birds will huddle together to share body heat and to stay warm.
Reptiles are Unique
Reptiles, unlike humans, cannot regulate their body temperature. They are ectothermic, meaning that their body temperatures are determined by the surrounding environment. When the temperature drops, the reptiles have unique adaptations to survive the winter! Did you know that turtles can survive an entire winter under the ice? They can do this because the can breathe through their cloaca (their butt!). For example, painted turtles can live underwater for up to 100 days, and even
brumate under water!
Some snakes, such as garter
snakes and rattle snakes will live together in a den, called a hibernacula, during the winter to stay warm.
All animals are unique and here in Colorado, they have a variety of adaptations to help them survive. Next time you see that animal foraging for food, or building a den let it be, because it may just be preparing for the winter.