2 The outdoors: wildlife in winter, life on the ice


Wildlife has many modes of survival during the freezing months.

BUFFALO, NY – Winter survival depends on adaptation. We humans have to create our own methods, but for the Savage Realm these adjustments have to come from within. Animals have a multitude of ways of dealing with cold and ice and all of them are amazing. Mary Ronan, environmental educator at Reinstein Woods in Cheektowaga, explains.

“Wildlife can choose to migrate, they can choose to hibernate, or they can find adaptations so that many of them stay active all winter. “

Some life forms, like insects, which we rarely think about because of their small size, out of sight, out of mind. Ronan says they’ve basically put their lives on hold.

“Some insects press a break at the egg stage and they will survive the winter at this egg stage, some will survive the winter in a cocoon or nymph, but we even have adult insects like our mourning cloak butterfly, which folds up on its own, just under bark, and that’s how it’s going to spend all winter. “

Amphibians use a process called brumation, in which their bodies shut down in order to conserve energy for the season. Some frogs are remarkable in an additional way.

“When it starts to get cold and they have that first contact with the ice, a wood frog will pull the water out of the middle part of its body, and that water outside will freeze solidly.” Ronan says, “But at the same time, the wood frog is pumping sugars into its circulatory system, and those internal organs are going to be filled with sugars which act as an antifreeze.”

And then there are the beavers. Unlike some of their mammalian brethren, they do not hibernate. Their dense coat and tails keep them protected, and they also use their own architectural skills to build sturdy lodges that keep them safe and warm all season.

“Within a lodge you would have an entire family unit, which would include both adults, youngsters or kits from this year, as well as yearlings from the previous year. So there is a lot of body heat going on between them. keeps comfortable in this lodge. “

Adaptations like these are just a few of the lessons we can learn from Mother Earth, and Ronan thinks this knowledge is important.

“We can learn from animals and we can create technology based on the things we observe, notice and study in wildlife, but in order for us to be able to make these discoveries, we need to protect the spaces where the wildlife is found.”

Reinstein Woods sponsors a number of fascinating winter programs. To know them, Click here.


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