Cold, snow, lack of sunlight — there’s no denying it, winter can be tough. Just like you spend many winter days on the couch watching movies and eating comfort food, animals like to lay low when the temperature drops. Some will even sleep right through the winter! Did you know that there’s a difference between animals that are true hibernators and those that just hunker down for the winter months? Here’s a look at what’s hibernating right now and how this wildlife may be a nuisance.
True hibernators are animals that lower their body temperatures to near freezing, slow their heart rate and breathing, and enter an almost comatose state during the winter. These animals survive off the fat they have stored in their bodies prior to their deep sleep. Some animals, like Ground Squirrels, will briefly wake up to eat a snack from food they have stored in their burrows. True hibernators include:
- Ground Squirrels
- Some species of bats, snakes and turtles
What About Bears?
You are probably wondering why bears are not on the list of true hibernators. Bears body temperatures drop just a few degrees rather than near freezing, which allows them to awaken from their winter slumber if threatened by an intruder. They spend spring and summer building up their fat reserves for the winter months. The more reserves bears have, the better their chance of surviving the harsh winter. Females need additional reserves since they give birth and nurse their cubs during this time.
Animals That Are Not True Hibernators
Animals that do not go into a dormant state during the winter are not considered “true hibernators.” Their activity slows during cold periods, but they still forage for food. These animals include:
- Gray Squirrels, Flying Squirrels and Red Squirrels
Unwelcome House Guests
True hibernators or not, these animals may seek the warmth of your home to spend the winter months. Squirrels will actually chew their way into the house and raccoons will pull off gable vents to get inside. These unwelcome guests have no problem keeping you awake at night with their scratching and helping themselves to your pantry food.
If you think you have a nuisance wildlife problem, contact a local pest management company.