In winter, the weather gets colder and the days get shorter. Animals deal with these changes in different ways.
Some animals—like Baltimore orioles—migrate, or travel to other locations. Others—like little brown bats—hibernate, or go through a deep sleep. Others still—like gray squirrels—adapt to the cold by changing their daily activity patterns and layering on fat to insulate their bodies.
Animals in Winter by Henrietta Bancroft and Richard G. Van Gelder is a great children’s book that describes the ways animals handle winter.
While it might seem like a period of inactivity for many wildlife, some species are still active and visible this time of year. So, bundle up the children and head outside to see what you can find! Grab a notebook and record your observations. What animals can you find? What are they doing (chasing each other, eating, sleeping, chasing each other, etc.)? You may also find signs wildlife have been in the area, like…
- Chewed branches, nuts or acorns
- Homes (look up in the trees for old bird nests, wasp nests or leafy squirrel nests)
- Scat (aka poop)
- Scratches on trees or on the ground
- Trails or tunnels in the snow or tall grass
Try to figure out which animals left the sign. For example, you can use our track key to identify common mammal tracks, or you can use our common mammal skull guide. You can print out and take our winter scavenger hunt with you, or you can create your own. You can also go on a winter conifer quest. The possibilities are endless—so get outside!