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Surviving Winter

Last updated over 3 years ago

To survive the cold winter months many animals will spend the fall building up stores of fat to live off of during periods of hibernation, dormancy or torpor (inactivity). Animals also take advantage of environmental features such as burrows, leaves, water, mud and logs to provide insulation from the cold. Browse this collection to learn more about how animal species survive during the winter. Click on the species image to go to its EOL page for more information.

Educational Activity

To learn how animals use the natural environment to survive the cold, check out the Animal Anti-freeze activity from our partners at Outdoor Biology Instructional Strategies (OBIS) from the Lawrence Hall of Science.

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    Spermophilus parryii

    Arctic Ground Squirrel

    Arctic Ground Squirrels have an enhanced ability to store fat, and for five to seven weeks preceding hibernation they will increase their fat stores to 30 to 41.5% of their total body weight.

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    Muscardinus avellanarius

    Hazel Dormouse

    During the cold winter months, dormice slow down their bodily functions and enter a state of extreme torpor (inactivity).They survive extended periods without food by living off stored reserves of fat.

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    Tamias striatus

    Eastern Chipmunk

    Eastern Chipmunks demonstrate food caching behavior throughout the year, but are particularly active in the early autumn to prepare for winter. They do not have the fat stores to hibernate, but instead enter periods of torpor (inactivity). Chipmunks may arise frequently to feed and during mild winter weather they may forage above ground.

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    Myotis lucifugus

    Little Brown Myotis

    Little brown bats hibernate in groups in roosts. Roost locations include abandoned mines or caves where the temperature is continuously above freezing and humidity is high.