By Sid Chaurasia
It’s that time of the year when the heavy blankets are taken out from their cupboards, the pantry is stocked with cocoa mix, and the holiday tickets are purchased. It’s that time when we stay cosily inside, only leaving the house in thick parkas, hats, and mitts. Over time, we’ve gotten accustomed to the luxury of indoor heating and temperature-proof clothing. But some critters aren’t as lucky as we are. So the question remains: how do the native animals battle the cold?
Some animals, like the beloved squirrels, stay up and about all year long. They hang out in their dens made from hollow trees, and feast on the seeds and other such food gathered throughout the summer.
Chickadees do something similar in the sense that they gather enough food to last them the whole winter in just a few summer months. In fact, it’s known that many birds’ hippocampus, the part of the brain responsible for memory, expands in fall and winter, allowing them to recollect where the food had previously been stashed.
The classic hibernator, the bear, loves hunkering down for a long doze through the cold, slowing its heart rate and breathing down to support itself on just the meals it had during the summer. Chipmunks, too, settle down in their underground burrows for the winter.
But it’s not just the lovable giants and the frisky little critters taking the nap. Frogs, toads and other amphibians enter a kind of hibernation called brumation. It’s a state cold-blooded animals enter during very cold weather, during which the animal briefly wakes up to drink water.
And then, of course, much like many humans these days, there are the travellers. When it gets too cold to eat or even sleep, some animals just pack up and go for the winter, only returning in the spring. Canadian geese and monarch butterflies are just a couple of well-known examples of migratory Canadian animals.
On the East Coast of Canada, you’ll see humpback whales making one of the biggest migratory journeys of all animals in search of warmer water. These huge sea-faring mammals travel about 10, 000 kilometres for the round trip.
So whether you’re on team Stay, like the frolicking deer and the sly fox, Snooze, like the cuddly bear and classic groundhog, or Take Off, like the geese and the determined Arctic tern, be sure to enjoy your winter whichever way you like. And who knows? Maybe we can pick up some tips on thriving in the cold from our animal friends.