Not Just for Kids

Vol. 9, No. 2
Jan. 11-17, 2001
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It's Cold Outside!

We can warm our toes by a toasty fire but what about our animal friends?

Where Do They Go in Winter?

by Martha L. Blume

Have you wondered where animals go in the winter? We know that some animals migrate, traveling hundreds of miles south to find food. Other animals hibernate, or go into a deep sleep. Their heartbeats slow, their temperatures drop, and they breathe slowly.

But many animals stick around and have to adapt, or change, to survive the cold days of winter. They may accumulate extra fat and grow thicker fur to help insulate them from the cold.

Chipmunks and raccoons go into a period of dormancy. They slow down and sleep for part of the winter, but have wakeful periods when they will eat part of their stored food. Other animals - like mice, rabbits, squirrels and deer - remain active, some relying on hidden caches and others having to search for food daily.

Some reptiles and amphibians migrate only a few feet or inches, searching out warm spots in their local habitat to spend the winter in hibernation or dormancy. Pond creatures dig down into the mud to hibernate.

Ground-dwelling insects, spiders, worms, and snails seek out warmth under layers of leaves or among weeds and grass roots. Snow, leaves and dirt are good insulators. They act like blankets to animals.

Where might they hide in your backyard?

Good Reading:

- Donald Stokes' Guide to Nature in Winter (1976)

- Deborah Turney Zagwÿn's Turtle Spring (1998)

Here's an experiment to help you find areas in your own backyard or neighborhood where animals might stay warm in the winter. Try it on a sunny day when the temperature outside has been below 40 degrees for several days in a row. A day with snow on the ground is best.

You'll Need:
- a box of gelatin dessert mix

- 4 small containers of the same size, like film containers, empty pill bottles or paper cups. If your containers do not have lids, cover them with plastic wrap and secure with a rubber band.

- a pot and spoon for mixing the gelatin

- a trowel or large spoon

Here's How:

- Prepare the gelatin and pour equal amounts into each of the four containers and cover. Ask an adult if you need help making the gelatin.

- Take the containers outside and place three of them in places where an animal might choose to stay warm in the winter: deep in a compost pile, under a large pile of leaves, deep in the snow, under a log or structure like a shed.

- Leave one container out in the open.

- Check the containers every 10 to 15 minutes.

What Happened? Why?

The container of gelatin that hardened first was in the coldest spot. The one that hardened last was in the warmest. Which places in your yard are good winter hiding places for wildlife?

Kids Calendar

- Take the Field with Challenger Minikickers

rsvp deadline Jan. 12 or until full (classes Jan. 13-Feb. 3, 9-10:30am Sa)–Kids ages

4-6 learn the basics of soccer in Annapolis Recreation & Parks' Challenger Minikickers workshop. Find all sorts of games and other fun to help you learn the game. Griscom Bldg., Truxtun Park. $45: 410/263-7958.

- Animals' coat's

Sat. Jan. 20

(10-10:30am)–During the winter, animals need coats just like we do. Learn which animals have the warmest coats. Feel some animal pelts and pretend you are an otter or a rabbit. Make a picture to take home (ages 3-5) Battle Creek Cypress Swamp. $3, rsvp: 410/535-5327.

Copyright 2000
Bay Weekly