Biology Facts About How Animals in Canada Survive the Winter

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Biology Facts About How Animals in Canada Survive the Winter

There’s lot to be excited about in winter, but with the holidays going on, you may not notice some of the other interesting natural phenomenon happening! People loved our 10 “Cool” Winter Science Facts for the Season blog and the information about how many insects survive the winter. We thought we’d share a few more neat biology facts about how animals and insects in Canada survive during the winter months.

Did you know…?

There’s actually three kinds of hibernation
  • Torpor – Sometimes also called “light hibernation” may not be the same sort of hibernation you’re used to thinking about. Torpor is relatively brief, and animals in torpor can wake up to eat and drink during warmer days.
  • Brumation - Brumation is similar in many ways to torpor… but this word is used to the state exclusively for cold-blooded animals like reptiles and amphibians.
  • True hibernation – which is the kind most of us are familiar with, where animals enter a metabolic state in which animals typically won’t wake up - not to eat, or drink, or even when disturbed - until spring.

Bears are not true hibernators

Most bears go into torpor, not true hibernation! Torpor is still a useful survival mechanism for bears, just the way true hibernation is. In fact, torpor is involuntary – it means that bears can’t just decide to hibernate. Scarce food and low temperatures will encourage bears to conserve their energy, but they will still wake up if they can to feed, or if they need to avoid danger.

Racoons and skunks share this hibernation tactic in common with bears… they also go into torpor.

Frogs do survive the winter – sometimes by freezing!

Frogs experience brumation – the reptile and amphibian equivalent of torpor. And it’s amazingly interesting how frogs do survive the winter, because different kinds of frogs weather the winter in ways most of us would think they couldn’t. Most frogs find liquid water places to hide in – places that won’t freeze solid, even though they might be very cold. But toads and other kinds of frogs that don’t spend so much time in the water tend to burrow below the frost line.

Lastly, a few kinds of frogs, including the Gray Treefrog, Spring Peeper and Chorus Frog found here in Ontario, can actually survive being partially frozen for the winter, thawing out in the spring. Very few other creatures can do this!

Except when nesting, robins are nomadic, and they may migrate… or they might not

For a bird we see everywhere in the spring, robins sure are quiet come winter. You might have wondered whether they tend to migrate like geese. The truth is… some do, but not all of them, and their habits are curious and not well understood. Robins survive the cold very well, and indeed many stick around in Canada for the winter months, but their behaviour changes, making them quieter and seen less. Food availability seems to be what motivates robins to move the most, and in the winter when their diet changes away from insects and worms, they will travel more to forage.

We hope you found some of these animal facts interesting! There’s lots of interesting reading online about how all of Canada’s wildlife survives the winter. Why not read up on your favourite animal’s winter habits?

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