Where did all my backyard friends go?

Wildlife in the winter

squirrelOur yards feel so empty in the winter as wildlife go into hibernation mode. Here are some amazing ways these animals survive the frigid cold.

Chunky groundhogs may look comical, but extra bulk is key to surviving the winter. Groundhogs dig deep dens where they retreat at the first heavy frost. As you know, early February is the soonest they emerge from their dens--to see if they must endure six more weeks of winter!

Snakes do not hibernate, but undergo “brumation.” This means they remain awake but don’t move much, and have a slower metabolism. They will drink but refuse to eat, because the snake’s body must be warm to digest food.

frogTurtles burrow into mud without suffocating because they require little oxygen while hibernating. They use sharp claws to tunnel far from prying predators, and underwater turtles can breathe through special skin cells in their tails!

Frogs need more oxygen, so they don’t burrow completely under the mud. Instead, they lie partially buried and absorb oxygen from the water through their skin.

Chipmunks build amazing dens which can be over 15 feet long, consisting of multi-layer tunnels, several entrances, and rooms for food storage and sleeping. Instead of relying on burning fat through the winter, chipmunks wake periodically to munch on their carefully gathered food stash.


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All images and photographs are courtesy of HSHV staff and Jeffrey E. Roush of Two Cat Studios.