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How Animals Are Affected By Winter


The Southern and eastern parts of the United States are experiencing harsh temperatures which create equally miserable conditions for the wildlife as much as it does for the humans.

Many animals adapt to extreme climates so that they can survive in the coldest of temperatures. Like Arctic foxes, red foxes and snowshoe hares with long thick fur and frostbite-proof feet are adapted exclusively for colder climates.

Some of the species have expanded their range recently due to climate change and other factors, but when sudden cold strikes occur they are not well prepared for it.

It’s difficult to know how this recent harsh cold weather will impact wildlife in the United States. Some of the below species will not fare well due to this extreme climate. 

The New England cottontail

These rabbits live in a dense spinney that makes them difficult to locate, but they leave trails behind, making it easy to know about their presence. It is easy to find them in fresh snow. Due to long-lasting snow, it has been not easy to find these cottontails, snowshoe hares because they burrow under the snow and move around less.

The past severe winters have seen around 60 percent decreases in the number of New England cottontails in Maine and the region where they are found.

Bobcats and lynx

Bobcats are also one of the predators of snowshoe hares. They can have a tough time during harsh winters. For about 25 years, the bobcat’s adapting skills have been subdued, such as having difficulty adapting to heavy snows and 10 inches or more sinking depth. This is considered one of the factors of the high mortality of bobcats. Some biologists suggest that bobcats at the northern edge of the range tend to adapt poorly in the deep snow during the severe winters of 2009 and 2008. They subsequently recovered after a few mild winters

Wild turkeys and owls

The constant deep snow cover is bound to impact wild turkeys and owls significantly, but its extent is yet to be figured out. The birds suffer from both a lack of food and warm cover. If it’s not possible for them to find their food on the ground within two or three feet of snow, they will spend a lot of their time roosting up in the trees. 

Carolina Wren

They often tend to perish because they don’t migrate. Due to frigid and harsh weather during the years, Carolina wren sightings have decreased significantly because they have died, and their range has contracted. The Carolina wren’s population territory has grown again into the north.

Virginia Opossum

Opossums have the physical proof of making it through icy winters that include damaged tails and ears. Their tails are often short or like something had bitten them off, but this signifies that they have endured frostbite.

Opossums will cave for a few days to avoid winters but won’t hibernate. It is because they have to feed themselves in intervals. Sometimes to take advantage of the warmer climate during the day, they feed during the day and not at night.

Bobwhite Quail

Thickly covered fields have enormous advantages for quail, like protection from extreme weather conditions. Bobwhites are required to burn more energy in winters to stay warm. A few degree fluctuations in temperature can harm their survival.  

Bird Migration

If cold continues to go on for long, it is dangerous for the migratory birds that tend to return to the northeast to breed because they could starve due to lack of food resources. They already seem to be weak due to the long migratory process.


Extremes of cold temperatures and heavy snow can be tough on humans, so we can only imagine how hard it must be for wildlife. Wildlife has evolved creative ways of preserving energy like inactivity, hibernation, deep sleep, and other physiological changes. Some tend to migrate towards warmer climatic regions. Some of these have had bulky layers of fat or lush fur that keeps them dry and warm.


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