Who lives out there in the Snow?

Nature Detectives Winter

Winter is here in Boulder County, the temperatures have dropped, and you’re probably wearing boots, a coat, cap, and mittens some days to stay dry and warm.

What about the wildlife you see in the winter? What happens to them? What do they do to manage the cold season?

Unlike animals like bears, ground squirrels and chipmunks who generally curl up into a cozy den and sleep the winter away in hibernation (or torpor– a lighter state of sleep), some animals stay active to some degree throughout winter. Let’s talk about some of the wildlife you might see and how they are adapted to cold Boulder County weather.

Oh deer…and elk and maybe even a moose

Painting of deer in winter

You could see a member of the deer family- deer, elk, or moose- in the winter. Like most other animals you see in the winter, they are less active when it’s cold in order to save energy and stay warm. The vegetation (such as grass, moss, twigs, aquatic plants-even fruits and flowers) that is plentiful in spring through autumn is more challenging to find during the winter. In a really snowy cold winter the deer family has to be flexible about what they eat- maybe more twigs than soft grass and greens.

The deer family (like many other mammals) eat a lot in the fall to build up fat stores (meaning energy) to get them through the winter season when food is less available. They grow VERY thick coats. Imagine if you were wearing 5 layers of shirts, sweaters and coats each time you went out in the winter! Deer species spend much of the winter in protected areas where
they can avoid cold temps, wind and predators as much as possible.

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