Nature Connection #10 – Surviving Winter – More

Nature prepares creatures for the cold weather. In my earlier post on Winter Survival, on January 18, I focused on survival facts, interesting behaviors and physical characteristics that keep animals alive in the coldest months.

People put on heavy clothes, snuggle into our houses, and consume warm/hot foods and drinks. Likewise, animals of all kinds do the best they can to survive. Here are more interesting survival tricks.

WayfaringWhales. The California gray whale migration occurs off the west coast of North America. The whale begins its journey in the fall in the Bering Sea and travels down toward Baja California to spend the winter. This 6,000-mile one-way journey is the longest-known migration of any mammal.

RestingRite. After migrating southward in the fall, western monarch butterflies spend winter in central coastal and southern California in groves of eucalyptus, Monterey pine, and oak trees. Populations east of the Rockies winter in coniferous forests of the Trans-Mexican Volcanic Belt..

SleetFeet. Snowshoe hares derive their name from their exceptionally large furry hind feet. Their natural “snowshoes” help these hares run over large snowdrifts and defend against predators.

MarathonMammals. The wolverine has been tracked covering 500 miles of terrain in 42 days. Climate change is causing female “skunk bears” to travel farther than before to find areas with sufficient late winter snow for their kits’ dens.

GarbageDisposal. While the arctic fox usually eats lemmings, voles, squirrels, and fish, it will eat almost anything if desperate enough, including the feces of other animals and the leftovers from polar bears and wolves. It may also create freezers by digging holes in the ice to hide its food.

ConditionedKiller. Endangered snow leopards live in high altitutdes, difficult terrain and harsh cimates in Central Asia. These challenging conditions explain the leopard’s highly specialized hunting ability. They are able to leap distances of up to 45 feet to tackle large prey such as wild goats or sheep.

UsefulFoundation. The feet of musk oxen are well adapted for the winter weather of their frozen arctic habitat. Their large hooves function as snowshoes and shovels, allowing the animal both to walk atop snow without sinking and to dig for grasses, shrubs and plants.

TuftedToes. The white-tailed ptarmigan has feathers that grow on its feet and legs, which help keep them warm during the winter and aid in walking on snow. The smallest grouse in North America, it is the only ptarmigan species found south of Canada.

EnergyEfficient. The European white stork saves energy by avoiding large bodies of water, such as the Mediterranean Sea, during migration. Water lacks the thermal air currents that create updrafts and allow birds to soar, reducing the need to flap their wings.

FastFlyingFleet. The thick-billed murre spends it winters at sea off the coasts of Greenland, northern Europe, and northern Japan. This waterbird has short pointed wings that enable it to fly up to 75 miles per hour and dive 330 feet underwater in pursuit of food.

Isn’t Nature amazing? The more I read about the specialized bodies and habits of animals the more amazed I am. Each one fits into its special place, with characteristics that assist in survival.

Humans are a part of this amazing world. What are the characteristics that enable us to survive?

(The above information was taken from the 2012 Ecological Calendar by Chris Hardman, available at www.pomegranate.com.)

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