Surviving a Niagara Winter
There are four ways an animal can survive the cold dark winter months in Niagara. They are;
- Opportunistic foraging and staying warm
Hibernation, torpor, and brumation are characterized by a lowering of the metabolic rate and body temperature for survival. There is a gradient between hibernation and torpor which is sometimes referred to as light hibernation, but we won't focus on that here. Hibernation is an extended period of time, up to 5 months, of inactivity where bodily functions slow down significantly including breathing and heart rate.
An animal that wakes up regularly, even daily, during hibernation is actually in torpor. Torpor can happen at any time of year and is used nightly by some birds. So what is the difference then between torpor and sleep? Well, torpor is triggered by low air temperature, while sleep is not triggered by temperature but does occur in a daily rhythm. Furthermore, it can take an hour to wake up from torpor and that is characterized by shaking, shivering, and muscle contractions which create heat. (Fun fact; Estivation is the opposite of torpor, used in desert animals it is triggered by high air temperature.)
Cold-blooded animals will go into brumation. Brumation lowers the metabolic rate so much that they cannot digest a meal, therefore they stop eating in preparation of brumation. Contrarily, hibernating animals fatten up to have the energy to hibernate.
Niagara animals that hibernate include bats, groundhogs, and bumble bees.
Animals that go into torpor include squirrels, chipmunks, skunks, and some birds.
Brumating species of Niagara include salamanders, blanding's turtles, and frogs.
Animals that stay active even during our cold niagara winters include opossums and rabbits.
Opossums summer diet of fruits and insects tends more towards seeds and nuts in winter. Although, they love to stay close to humans and take advantage of their tasty trash as well. Rabbits will eat tree bark, twigs, and even their own feces when greenery runs low.
That concludes the ways that Niagara animals survive our cold snowy winters!
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