For humans, winter is a time to bundle up, enjoy warm drinks, and sit by the fire—but how do other animals manage to survive the coldest season? Nature is full of impressive methods of winter survival, from sleeping through the season entirely to traveling vast distances to escape the cold. Learn more with this overview of how different animals survive the winter.
Every year, you can tell winter is coming when you see birds flying south. Migration is the process of moving from cold areas to warmer ones (or vice versa) as the seasons change. Animals migrate so that they can stay in warmer weather with more stable food sources throughout the entire year. Birds are the most popular migrators; they can cross amazing distances during their yearly journey. For example, the Arctic tern travels from the North Pole to the South Pole every year to escape the winter. Other animals that migrate include some species of bats, elk, and even whales.
When cold weather comes, sometimes all you want to do is curl up somewhere warm and take a nap. Many animals do just that when they hibernate. During hibernation, an animal’s body temperature drops as its heartbeat and breathing slow. This means their body uses very little energy so that they can stay in their deep sleep throughout the season. Hibernating animals eat extra food in the fall so that their body has plenty of fat stored to keep their energy levels up throughout the winter. Bears are by far the most well-known hibernators, but skunks, chipmunks, and some bats also use this method to survive the winter.
If an animal isn’t leaving town or sleeping through the winter, they probably have some unique way of adapting to the change in seasons. Many creatures grow thicker coats that keep them warm and dry in the snow. Others grow different-colored fur that allows them to blend in better with the wintry landscape. Food storage is another one of the ways different animals survive the winter. For example, squirrels store extra nuts and seeds throughout the year so that they’ll have plenty to eat when food sources become scarce. Some social creatures—such as penguins and honey bees—will huddle together to keep warm throughout the winter. Animals have countless ways of adapting to their climates and successfully surviving the season.