Around this time of year, winter decides it’s done playing around and starts unleashing the real snow. By now, all the lucky animals are either far away or nestled down in a warm place where they can snooze. But what about the unlucky animals?
As you’ve probably noticed, plenty of animals neither migrate nor hibernate during the winter time. When heavy snow starts coming down, they have to get creative to acclimate. Here’s how four of the most common animals unlucky enough to spend winter here with us deal with snow.
Contrary to popular belief, there are all kinds of birds that don’t migrate during the winter. Instead, they survive the cold of winter by finding shelter, grouping together, and fattening up. When snow starts falling hard, they tend to have to kick these instincts into overdrive. During particularly snowy days, you may notice groups of birds hunkering down in “microhabitats” wherever they can. Generally, these microhabitats will be beneath something that can block out direct snowfall.
Snow can be a serious problem for birds because it tends to cover up their food sources. As snow continues to fall, birds might become more desperate for alternate sources of food. You might be surprised how often you run into birds in your garage during the winter, for instance. Birds will also risk traveling further to find shelter during snow storms than they might otherwise. If your home provides a good shelter, expect plenty of birds to show up nearby.
Raccoons enter a hibernation-like state called torpor, but they can’t sustain it as long as true hibernators. They prepare for periods of torpor by building fat stores, especially in their large tails. As they lay dormant, these fat stores sustain them for long periods of time. Every couple of weeks, however, they’ll have to get up in order to replenish their stores. If they happen to wake up during heavy snowfall, this can be difficult.
Raccoons are highly opportunistic scavengers. They rarely wander far from their dens, preferring to pick away at any nearby food instead. If there is no food nearby, however, raccoons may ranger further in order to access some. They’re particularly fond of dumpsters, especially during the winter. If raccoons can find a good food source, they may attempt to build a new den nearby. Raccoons may also den in small groups during winter in order to keep each other warm.
Opossums have it rough during the winter. Not only are they incapable of hibernating, but their fur doesn’t provide much insulation, either. It’s not uncommon for opossums to actually suffer from frostbite during particularly cold winters. Opossums don’t den in groups to keep warm. Instead, they spend fall lining their dens with grass and leaves to prepare for winter. During particularly cold times, they tend to hunker down in their dens to keep as warm as possible.
Opossums usually attempt to wait out snow storms from inside their dens, entering a torpor similar to raccoons’. Opossum dens are often high up in trees, which makes them difficult to leave during snow storms. Opossums use warmer days to stock up on nearby food and shelter material. In general, they try not to leave their dens unless it’s necessary. During winter, they’ll feed on garbage, bird seed, or anything else they can find. Opossums can’t afford to be picky!
Rabbits never hibernate or enter torpor during winter. If they want to survive, they have to keep eating all year. That usually means they stick close to consistent food sources like berry bushes or lawn plants. Like other small mammals, they also stick together and seek out convenient shelter like porches or awnings. They’ll move from shelter to shelter until they find a good shelter near a food source. Like other small mammals, they tend to stick together in winter.
Rabbits can respond to snow storms in a couple different ways. If they have a food source, they’ll find a shelter as close to it as possible. From there, they’ll simply wait for the snow to stop, emerging only when they have to eat. If they can’t find food or shelter, they’ll keep moving until they feel safe and have food to eat. Often, this will bring them in close proximity to people’s homes.
The animals that stick around for winter have to be highly resourceful to survive. Their tenacity is never more tested than when it snows. Often, these animals may even use your home for food or shelter during particularly bad snow storms. It’s hard to blame them, but that doesn’t mean you should tolerate it, either.
If you’re having a wildlife problem this winter, give Varment Guard a call. We’ll come to you and take care of your problem, no matter how hard it’s snowing. Stay warm!BACK TO BLOG