How wildlife survives during cold winters

By JIM ABRAMS
We’re experiencing one of the colder winters in memory with plenty of snow and ice. It’s uncomfortable, heating bills are climbing, and shoveling snow has become a hobby. As strange as it may sound, I can’t wait to mow the grass.
Have you ever wondered how these conditions affect wildlife?
Experience with blizzard conditions and prolonged heavy snow cover hinders a deer’s mobility and makes finding grazing patches a difficult venture. A blizzard’s high winds and blowing snow will take its toll on birds with its hypothermic effects, and all animals struggle to find their next meal.
But we aren’t experiencing blizzard conditions. Sure, there’s plenty of snow and deep drifts, but not that heavy, deep blanket that covers the entire countryside. This typical Midwest snow cover is easily handled by our adaptive native wildlife.
What we do have is cold, Arctic cold. The kind of cold that gives you a chill just reading the forecast in The Courier.
Wildlife will withstand these cold snaps. They instinctively seek out high-energy foods, limit their movements to conserve body heat, and spend their time loafing in sheltered areas that are protected from the wind.
Migratory birds hopscotch their way farther south as weather worsens. Those that have taken up winter residency are equipped for cold spells. They’re mobile food-finders and have a circulatory system that helps keep them warm. Their feathers are excellent insulators. It’s like they’re carrying a down jacket with them.
The snow acts as an insulation for the voles and mice that inhabit our landscape. They scurry through tunnels that they excavate from warm den to food sources, invisible to lurking predators.
Reptiles, amphibians and bats have burrowed into mud, dens, leaf litter or other protective cover and entered into states of hibernation or “torpor,” a slowing of the metabolism and circulatory system to survive cold weather.
What might be hurt? A deep penetrating ground freeze will sometimes reduce the summer’s mosquito population.
OK, mosquitos bug me, but so does minus 5 degrees.
Along the Way:
The Ohio Department of Agriculture will be treating for gypsy moths in Hancock County. The application is a result of their statewide trapping program used to identify area infestations. High-risk locations were chosen for the project which begins in mid-June.
A single application of a mating disruption product, either Splat or Disrupt II flakes, will be accomplished by a low-flying aircraft cruising 50-100 feet above the tree tops.
Both products contain the synthetic pheromone, disparlure, which disrupts the communication between the male and female moths, preventing them from finding each other during the mating season, sort of like blocking their cellphone coverage.
To answer questions, an open house is scheduled for Wednesday at 6 p.m. at the Delaware Township Hall, Mount Blanchard.
Step Outside:
• Hancock County 4-H Shooting Sports needs adults interested in helping young marksmen learn safe shooting skills through the “learn by doing” program. Contact Melissa Crowe at CroweGirls1@Gmail.com.
• Feb. 23: Free coyote snare seminar, 2 p.m., Camp Berry Boy Scout Camp, Findlay. Contact 419-348-0373. Space limited to 200.
• April 5: Whitetails Unlimited Banquet to be held at the Cube. Doors open at 4 p.m., dinner at 6 p.m. For tickets, contact 419-422-8451 or 419-422-1182.
Abrams is a retired wildlife officer supervisor for the state Division of Wildlife in Findlay. He can be reached at P.O. Box 413, Mount Blanchard, OH 45867-0413 or via email at jimsfieldnotes@aol.com.

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