What do you do when you get cold in the winter? Bundle up in front of a fire? Drink hot chocolate (with marshmallows, of course)? For animals, they can’t do any of these things, and have to find other ways to survive or keep warm during the cold winter months.
Some animals leave their home to go south, where it’s warmer. Many birds fly south – have you seen Sandhill Cranes flying in their famous “V” formation? Monarch Butterflies fly to Mexico to stay warm; they are the only known insect that migrates this far. This can be a trek of thousands of miles. That’s incredible for such tiny, delicate creatures!
Other animals stay where they are for the winter and will grow a thick coat of fur or increase fat stores. For some, they may hibernate, brumate, or enter a state of torpor. Hibernators like bears take their cues from day length and hormone changes while animals that enter a state of torpor take their cues from temperature and food availability. Reptiles, such as the American Toad or bullfrogs, enter a state of brumation – their metabolism slows down quite a bit but they do not “go to sleep” for the winter. If the temperatures do rise on a certain day, you may see reptiles out and about.
The Mission of the Chattahoochee Nature Center is to connect people with nature. Learn more at www.chattnaturecenter.org.