| Story by Meghan McMahon |
Many of us dread the arrival of winter, with the shorter days and falling temperatures of autumn signaling the frigid months ahead.
Animals, though, don’t get to throw on a winter coat or — better yet — just stay in when the weather gets to be too much to bear. There’s a saying in science that as winter approaches, animals either hibernate, migrate, adapt or die, said Kelli Parke, interpretive naturalist at Four Rivers Environmental Education Center.
If animals can’t leave areas where winter is cold and harsh or either hibernate or make adaptations to survive a harsh winter, they could die as a result. Birds are the most well-known example of an animal that migrates to survive winter, often following their food supply south where temperatures are warmer.
Animals who stay in northern Illinois for the winter – whether they hibernate or adapt to survive the cold – spend time in the fall making preparations. Some may get a new, heavier coat for winter, while others either eat more or experience a slowing of their bodies’ metabolism, Parke said.
“(Winter) is a risky time for all animals, so they are definitely preparing for it,” she said. “They are preparing to try and survive.”
Here’s a look at some of the animals that spend their winters in northern Illinois and what they do this time of year to prepare.