Over the last few millennia, humans have come up with a variety of ways to keep warm when it’s cold outside. We bundle up in jackets and scarves, we consume warm foods and drinks, and we even build fires inside of our homes to keep our temperatures—and our spirits—up. But while some people couldn’t imagine surviving the winter without these comforts, wild animals manage to do so year after year. How?
Well, just as humans have techniques for keeping the cold at bay, animals have a few tricks up their sleeves, as well:
Changing their Coats
Certain animals are famous for their ability to change colors during wintertime. Arctic foxes, stoats, and snowshoe hares all trade in their earth-toned fur for a pure white coat once the temperatures start to drop. Adaptive camouflage gives them an advantage whether they’re trying to avoid predators or sneak up on their prey. Now, there aren’t any Texas-native species that change colors so dramatically, and that’s probably because we don’t get much snow ‘round these parts. If you’d like to see an animal go from brown to white and back again, you may need to find a friend (or neighbor) with a pet Siberian hamster.
Note: please don’t take the above paragraph to mean that your dog’s fur will keep her warm regardless of the weather. As we mentioned in a recent post, there are times in which it’s simply too cold for your dog to be outside.
Changing their Ways
Hibernation is probably the most dramatic example of a creature altering its behavior in response to the changing seasons. Though the process is a little more complicated than the animal simply napping until spring rolls around, a hibernating mammal will sleep for extended periods of time, and they’ll exhibit a noticeably cooler body temperature and slower heart rate while doing so. The ultimate goal is to conserve energy and live off of stored fat; when food is scarce, the easiest solution may be to spend more time resting than moving around.
Meanwhile, animals that don’t hibernate have to find food somehow, and certain critters will change their diets to survive. Case in point: red foxes are omnivorous, and during the summer months, they’ll subsist primarily on insects, fruits, berries, and grasses. In wintertime, though, these food sources are considerably harder to come by, and the foxes will respond by more aggressively hunting small animals—like squirrels, rats, and rabbits—to eat. If you own chickens or ducks and you keep them outside, be especially wary of foxes (and other predators) when it’s cold or snowy outside!
Infiltrating Man-Made Structures
There’s no central heating out in the woods, so when animals come across nice, warm houses during periods of inclement weather, the temptation to let themselves in can be impossible to resist. This is often how folks wind up with critters living in their attics, crawlspaces, and uncapped chimneys. Even areas that seem uninviting to humans, like backyard sheds or porch decks, are ripe for squatting; as long as it provides shelter, an animal will either exploit an existing entry point or just create one.
When there’s a wild animal living in your home, you need to have it removed as soon as possible. Some people feel guilty about the prospect of evicting pests during winter months; admittedly, it is easy to feel sorry for “poor, helpless critters” when the temperature drops or rain turns to sleet. But the normal, day-to-day activities of wild animals can cause significant damage to your home and expose you to serious illnesses. Also, infestations tend to get worse over time instead of resolving themselves; a single squirrel living inside your attic can very quickly turn into an entire colony of squirrels living in your attic!
If you’re worried about a furry invader’s well-being, your best option is to seek out a cruelty-free wildlife removal service. These technicians are trained to trap animals in a safe, humane manner and release them into the wild instead of killing them. The animal gets to live out its life the way nature intended, and you get to sleep with a clear conscience!
Generally speaking, wild animals do not need human assistance when “the weather outside is frightful.” Surviving winter is by no means easy; Mother Nature can be a very harsh mistress. However, the vast majority of animals will be fine due to a combination of behavioral and biological adaptations. So please don’t make the mistake of assuming that an animal must be given shelter in your home or on your property if it’s going to see springtime!
At the end of the day, animals enduring the winter months without human intervention is the natural order of things. Focus on keeping yourself, your family, and your pets warm—and don’t be afraid to fight back against intruders!
Photo courtesy of Dawn Huczek on Flick