Many animals eat a lot in the fall to put on a layer of fat which provides two benefits: it helps with insulation, and it provides stored energy reserves in case food becomes scarce. Animals that live in the north, especially birds, have more blood vessels in their extremities, like their feet and legs, which help to keep these areas warm, especially when they are wading in cold water. Many northern species also have thicker layers of skin, beaks, claws, or toenails.
All these adaptations help our winter residents survive until the spring once again arrives. Despite these adaptations, the winter is the harshest season for most wildlife and mortality can be high, especially in smaller animals like mice, rabbits, and squirrels. It is not unusual to loose 80% of these populations, mostly due to starvation and being eaten by larger predators. These smaller animals have a higher reproductive rate to counterbalance their relatively short lifespan.
Article by FCFCDB
Photo credits: Jan Barrow, Myersville, MD
Nature note for 2/5/21