In the winter it’s easy for us to crank up the heat and throw on a nice coat to stay warm. When the elements get harsher, we simply stay inside and enjoy our cozy homes. Animals don’t have it so easy though and have to find ways to deal with the cold, no matter how severe the weather may be.
While our animal friends have us to help them stay safe and warm all winter long, in the wild, animals have had to adapt in all sorts of ways. Here are four of the most common ways wild animals have adapted to live and thrive in cold climates.
Hibernation allows some animals to survive through the winter by reducing their need for resources. By hibernating they don’t have to spend energy to hunt food, which is even more scarce during the cold season. And while some people compare hibernating to sleeping, it’s not really the same. Hibernation is a slow down of metabolism that allows all of the animal’s systems to slow down dramatically. During this unique state, they need far less energy to survive. It is true, however, that many animals find a safe spot, like a den, to hibernate in during the coldest months of the year.
The idea of migration is a simple one, in fact, a lot of people do it too! By going to a warmer climate for the winter, animals can avoid cold weather and have reduced access to food and water. If you’ve ever taken a winter vacation to a warm beach, you’ve migrated! The big difference is that animals will make the warmer location their home until it’s time to return. Interestingly, many different animals use this tactic, from fish and birds to large mammals and insects!
Seasonal adaptations are a fascinating way animals deal with the cold. This includes changing their appearance in some way to be more suited for the harsh weather of winter. It could be growing warmer fur or a thickened undercoat to provide insulation, but it can be more dramatic as well. For instance, there are multiple animals that actually turn white in the winter, like the Mountain Hare! By having white fur in the winter, these animals are safer from predators and they can hunt more effectively since they can go undetected in the snow.
Last on our list is the “storage” method. This can include eating more to gain extra fat before the winter sets in, to creating food caches, like the beaver or red squirrel. This is where an animal collects and hides extra food when it’s available so they can eat it during the winter when resources are harder to come by.
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