Wyoming is well known for cold winters that seem to last all year long. How does the wildlife of Wyoming respond to this harsh season? Some critters avoid winter by hibernating. Others escape away to somewhere warmer. A few must tough it out until spring.
Bears are the most famous hibernators in Wyoming, but they aren’t the only animals that sleep away winter. Other species that go into a hibernation-like state include marmots, chipmunks and frogs.
Hibernation isn’t really going to sleep for a long time. Instead, animals slow their heart rates and breathing down to just a few beats and breaths per minute.
Many birds fly south for winter. They generally migrate to find food, not because of the cold temperatures.
Chickadees will roost and huddle together on long winter nights in an effort to stay warm. During the day, listen for their “chick-a-dee-dee” and “cheeeese-bur-ger” calls.
Besides warm down feathers, ducks, geese, and swans have special adaptions in their feet so they can stay warm even when they stand on a frozen lake.
Migration isn’t just for the birds. Lots of big game species move from summer ranges to winter ranges, sometimes over 100 miles away.
Snowshoe hares turn white for the winter. This camouflage helps protect them from potential predators.
When weasels turn white for winter, they are sometimes called ermine. Look for their dumbbell-shaped tracks as they hop along the snow.
Some animals including weasels and mice move about under the snow in an area called the subnivean zone. The snow is like a blanket protecting them from the cold air.