Working 9 to 5 with the sun setting on my drive homeward, this time of year I find myself drawn to my easy chair with a blanket when I get home for a before dinner period of dormancy to wind down. Winter is a period of dormancy for a lot of folks especially when there is no snow to play with. Tomorrow many of us will doze off from the copious amount of L-tryptophan in our systems from the turkey we consume.
I have a fish pond next my house with some large gold fish in it (they can get up to 12 inches long) – when the water temperature gets into the 40s I quit feeding the fish and cover the pond. They lay at the bottom of the pond and go to sleep until I remove the cover in the spring. It is amazing to watch them come back to life when the sunlight hits them. I have never lost a fish during the winter though it seems every year there are a few ground moles floating on the top. I think the moles burrow through the snow and then drop into the water and can’t get back out.
There are several ways that animals respond to winter: they migrate, adapt or hibernate. But hibernation isn’t as simple as going to sleep for a couple of months. Although there are various degrees and duration, hibernation always involves certain changes for animals. Their body temperature decreases, their breathing slows, and their metabolic rate drops.
It can be a lot of work, getting ready to hibernate. Many animals have to find or create that perfect, safe spot to bed down for months at a time, whether it’s a cave, a hollow tree, or a den dug into the ground. Usually, before they go into hibernation, the animal has to increase its body fat to survive, which means eating much more than usual in the months leading up to winter. Although hibernation always happens in winter, many different things can act as the actual trigger for animals to start, including temperature drops, decrease in food availability, changes in day length and hormone changes.
Bats, frogs, snakes, bears and ground mice hibernate in our area – raccoons and opossums do not – I know that for a fact as I see both year around dining on the cat foot I leave outside for the cats. I bet I have the fattest wildlife in the area. This year I had a mom raccoon and three babies coming up to feed. The cats will sit up on the deck rails and watch them. I keep telling my wife one of these nights when she lets the cats in she is going to have some raccoons and possums follow them in. The photo above shows one of the raccoons which make a nightly visit to my side porch.
Weather-wise we will have good travel conditions around the state – Fairly quiet weather is forecast through the holiday travel period. No major weather systems will affect the area through the upcoming weekend. Temperatures will be on the cool side of normal today and on Thanksgiving but will warm back to above normal on Friday. Highs will be in the 30s today and Thursday but warm well into the 40s, if not into the 50s on Friday.
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