seasonal animals

August is halfway over, which means that autumn will soon be upon us. And when the seasons change, animals respond by changing their normal behavior! Here’s a very brief overview of what to expect from wild animals during various times of year:

Once the weather cools and the trees start losing their leaves, critters really get serious about survival. If they’re going to make it through the winter, they have a lot of work to do!

  • Chipmunks and squirrels round up as much food as they can and eat voraciously to pack-on body fat. Extra rations are either buried in the ground (to be recovered later) or stored in their burrow to be eaten later.
  • Deer mate during autumn, so you might see more of them than you would during summer, winter, or spring. However, the flood of hormones crashing through their systems at this time means that they don’t always behave rationally. If you see a buck while walking through your favorite nature trail, give him plenty of space, because you do NOT want him to think that you’re encroaching on his territory or trying to get between him and a potential mate. Also, be careful driving in areas surrounded by undeveloped land. If a deer thinks that a mate might be on the other side of the highway, they won’t think twice about dashing across the road.
  • Certain kinds of birds (likes Canadian geese) and butterflies (like monarchs and painted ladies) begin their southern migration during fall. Some head all the way to Mexico, but it’s not uncommon for large numbers of them to settle down in Texas. They’ll head north again in early spring, so enjoy these seasonal guests while they’re here!

For wild animals, winter is all about survival.

  • Most people know that bears hibernate during winter, but they’re not the only animals who do so. Chipmunks, skunks, tortoises, and some bats will also spend most of winter sleeping to conserve food and energy, so if you’ve gotten used to seeing these animals in your yard or neighborhood, they might disappear for a little while. No worries, they’ll probably be back in spring. In the meantime, try to not disturb animals while they’re hibernating; being awoken frequently during this time can have adverse effects on their health. If a hibernating animal has settled on your property (bats are often guilty of this), call a professional to have it removed and relocated!
  • Red foxes are omnivores, and during spring, summer, and fall, they subsist primarily on grasses, insects, and fruit. However, during winter, these food sources become scarce, so foxes often rely on catching small rodents or birds in order to survive. If you have rabbits or chickens that you keep outside, you’ll want to make sure that your yard is secured against predators!

Having survived another winter, wild animals increase their activity level in spring.

  • If the local birds seem particularly loud this time of year, it’s not just your imagination. Many species of birds use singing (and other vocalizations) to attract mates and/or warn rival suitors to get out of their territory. Spring is when a lot of birds start “lookin’ for love,” so you might notice a veritable symphony going on in the trees during the early morning hours.
  • Spring is also when a large number of frog, toad, and salamander species lay their eggs. When it’s mating time, hundreds (or even thousands) of these amphibians may flock to the same body of water, and their croaks and calls can create quite a racket. If you live near a pond or lake, please be careful while walking around at night. When a human steps on a frog, it’s an unpleasant situation for everyone involved!
  • Meanwhile, the deer who found mates back in autumn will be having their babies around this time. If you see a doe roaming around in the woods (or wandering into your backyard), don’t be surprised if she has one or two fawns tagging along with her! While fawns are incredibly cute, please don’t approach them—female deer usually aren’t aggressive toward humans, but they will defend their babies from a perceived threat.

As the temperature rises, animals adjust once again. They’ve got a few months of relatively nice weather to look forward to before autumn comes around again.

  • Sometimes, biological instincts (hunger, the need to provide for their young) or environmental factors (bad weather, human activity) can force a normally nocturnal animal to be active during the day. Don’t assume that the opossum you see skittering out of a bush and into the woods is sick or injured—it might just be really hungry!
  • During the evening hours, you’ll probably see more snakes and other reptiles out and about. Summer is sometimes referred to as “snake season” just because legless critters are so prolific during these months; cold-blooded animals love warm nighttime weather! Very few snakes are actually aggressive, though, so as long as you don’t bother the snakes, it’s highly unlikely that they’ll bother you.
  • On a related note: reported wildlife attacks on people and domestic animals are more numerous during the summer months, and it’s not just because the heat makes animals ornery. People and pets tend to spend more time outdoors during summer, whether they’re celebrating holidays (Memorial Day, Fourth of July, Labor Day, etc.), hiking, camping, or just hanging around. This increases their risk for encountering wild animals, which in turn increases the likelihood of altercations. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to enjoy nature during this time of year, but always be aware of your surroundings, and don’t feed wild animals!

One thing stays consistent regardless of the season: you can’t have wild animals living in your house. Animals find ways to survive and live their lives regardless of the time of year and despite harsh weather conditions. Thus, you don’t need to feel guilty about “evicting” a family of squirrels or raccoons who decide to hunker down in your attic for the winter! Please call a licensed wildlife removal specialist if any woodland critters wind up a little too close for comfort. The natural behavior of wildlife is best observed from a distance!


Photo courtesy of Larry Lamsa on Flickr