Mother Nature is changing into her fall colors here at the Wildlife Center. Now as we go into autumn, things are starting to slow down. The Wildlife Clients are gone unless we get in an injury or two through the winter, most of our clients are injured or orphaned/displaced babies so our busy time is March through Sept. Now is time to focus on renewal. Now, when the cages are EMPTY is a good time to do our cage maintenance, and get ready for next year.
I get asked this question a lot this time of year.
Every animal and bird species deals with winter in their own way.
Lets start with Migrations. Most, but not all birds do a migration of some sort in Colorado. Some have long arduous journeys and some migrate just a few hundred feet into a warmer valley or somewhere more protected.
The tiny Arctic Tern has the longest migration at over 44,000 miles...WOW!! The Arctic Tern travels from the Artic to the Antarctica every year. The Sooty Shearwater comes in second in flying over 4000 miles for their migration.
Long migrations are not just for the birds...hehe! Salmon travel over 4300 miles, the Monarch Butterfly flies over 3000 miles, Caribou travel 3000 miles, Leather Back Turtle swims over 12,000, and at over 13,000 miles the Humped Back whale has the longest migration of any mammal.
Another interesting FYI on a long migration is about the Dragon Fly. There are 5200 different species of Dragon Fly, of that only 50 migrate. Those have the longest migration of the insect world at over 10,000 miles. And no Dragon Fly has that stamina or life length so it takes 4 generations to make it. Just to turn around and start back.
A Hummingbird migration depends on the species and the changing environment (getting colder). A Rufous Hummer travels roughly 3900 miles. Hummingbirds differ from other bird species by always migrating by themselves, and they fly low over the terrain. Probably better to see food along the way. Hummers can ride out brief periods of snow/cold by going into a torpor state. This enables them to ride out that surprise cold snap for short amounts of time.
In Colorado most of our animals don't do a much of hibernation. It all depends on the weather. Just because our bears fattened up in the fall to hibernate doesn't mean that bear is going to stay asleep until spring. A bear may arouse but will go back to sleep and will not eat usually until spring. Large rodents such as the Marmot and ground squirrels will also hibernate through the cold.
The Hummingbird can do it for a night or two but the anything in the Nightjar family will do a torpor state on and off as needed instead of migrating to warmer area. Many of the small critters like mice can do a torpor state but cant maintain it for long due to their high metabolism. They have to wake up to eat.
Adapt and ride out the winter
Most of our critters in Colorado are very adept at riding out the winter. The elk, deer, foxes, weasels, tree squirrels and the rest start preparing for the winter by making sure their diet is good to grow an efficient winter coat and beef up their body weight. The deer, big horned sheep, mountain goats, and elk know where the best places in their area that are protected to ride out a bad storm. Most of our "den animals" have several dens...you never know when you will need a back up (tree came down or?). Food in the winter is another story. Tree Squirrels stash in little pits they dig ALL over the place. Extra protection for them and they start a new baby tree in the spring if they don't get to the stash. A win win there....lol. Tree squirrels are awake for the winter. Ground squirrels, chipmunks, pika, all stash as much as they can in their den. You may see a ground squirrel or chipmunk, if weather permits, coming out of their den in the winter. The pika may wake up and eat but they will not leave their den until spring. Raccoons, foxes, coyotes will have nice warm den but will not stash any food in their den. And they will be up an running through the winter.