The critters included here are ones that I have photographed. They are not all of the critters here; in fact, I'm short of the coyotes, the wolves, deer, moose,chipmunks, which I have lots of photos of but forgot to include; and many others, which I either flubbed the photo because I got excited, or didn't have the camera. In the four legged world nature has done many different things to ward off the cold, but two layers of fur an outer guard layer and an inner layer to trap air are common. Both layers thicken in the winter. Food, again is essential. Some burrow with caches of food, others hibernate, and others den but forage all winter long.
The wild mink shots were taken on the east track beaver pond. The mink is a member of the wolverine family, a very vicous family. They eat frogs, rodents, muskrat and fish. He's insulated like many other mammals by his outer fur which is oily and his warm undercoat which traps air. The oiliness waterproofs him
Their fur thickens, in winter and in the case of his cousin the marten he not only thickens his coat, but changes his colour to white. Their dens are normally along the banks of wetlands, and they are not adverse to taking over the burrows of other animals such as muskrats or beaver. Beaver will burrow in banks in a fast moving river where lodges are impossible to build.
The real key for these guys is food to maintain their metabolism to keep their core temperature up.Their winter source of food narrows to mice or voles who burrow and tunnel in the snow and rabbits.
You would think River Otter would hibernate, but they don't. They move to open unfrozen water where food is available.
Similar to the mink their fur is thick and oily. In fact the oil and the thickness of their fur captures air next to the skin which warms and insulates them. Again food is important to build their internal fat layer.
Beaver move under the ice, but the lodge is the hub of their existence. Thus, they're a burrowing animal, that moves around in winter.
The Red Fox, a canine, thickens his coat. The exterior guard hairs hold the moisture away from his body while the undercoat traps air and keeps him warm.
Food is critical in all cases. And in fact the Fox even adapts his diet to winter. In the milder months they will eat berries or even insects as well as smaller mammals. In winter he feeds on mice or voles, who live in the snow banks and build tunnels and burrow in it.The fox who visits my bird feeders,which I showed in an earlier post, eats the seeds, but is mainly hunting mice and voles who are attracted by the seed.
Then, of course there is Boomer lying outside in the snow waiting for me to finish doing something or other. He thickens his fur. The guard hair holds the moisture away from his undercoat, which traps air and keeps him warm. Boomer's coat has no oil in it so he's not waterproofed because he is an Arctic dog and not made for swimming. When I first got Boomer he used to burrowing in the snow for mice and voles also. Now he just waits for me to serve up the food. I increase his food in the winter because he is more active. If he were a northern sled dog hunting seals on the ice with the Inuit, he would have been fed seal meat blubber to build up his fat layer and provide required energy.
The Red Squirrel thickens his fur like some of the other animals. He doesn't hibernate like Chipmunks, but he does store food in middens, so that he can tap them to maintain his bulk. They may not be visible in a cold winter because they will stay in their nests, moving about on warm days. Chipmunks hibernate in their burrows. Their heart and temperature rate falls; they are true hibernators.
Apparently, these squirrels who feed on seeds quite often forget where their middens are. So they aid in regenerating the forest. Ground squirrels hibernate, my reds, which are tree squirrels don't. So nature has different options for members of the same species. Squirrels in warm climates may hibernate ro avoid warm weather.
Everybody knows Bears hibernate. They add about 20 percent of their own body weight in the fall. One of the reasons they invade garbage areas is because of the enormous internal pressure to add that weight. I'm trying to give you the most current information on bear hibernation as it's currently being re-looked at, as it's apparently unlike the hibernation of the others.
Unlike racoons or skunks these guys go into a deep sleep. They don't eat stored food, or even defecate. They maintain their normal temperature, although their hear rate may slow allowing a fast wake up. They may even wake from time to time, but do not leave their dens like skunks. Skunks leave to empty their scent glands, and forage.
All hibernators are driven to hibernate by something called their Hibernate Inducement Trigger. Science doesn't quite understand how this works. This is not a good photo, but I had just got the camera and was trying to no avail to photograph some redstarts. When I turned around there she was, not far from me, with a cub. When I moved, she silently melted into the woods, not an easy feat when you're her size. But that's how fast things happen in a wilderness. All the animals shown here are photographed in the wild, not a nature preserve with fixed trails or habituated animals. I got no bear photos last year because the berry crop in the woods was so good. And boy did Boom and I try to get photos of bears. They're actually, besides the wolf, one of my favourites.
I added to the post these two bird shots for WBW. These are Pine Grosbeaks, the largest of the finches. Like the Redpolls which I left in the shot for size comparison, they're from the Boreal forest also, but overwinter here. This is the female, a beauty in her own right.
This is the male. All those grey skies and low temperatures are worth while when you have these guys. I'll do overwintering fiches next week.