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Monday, January 27, 2014

Wildlife in Winter

"Tracks lead on, showing no interest in possible food, and no concern over the rompings and retributions of his neighbors. I wonder what he has on his mind; what got him out of bed?" - Aldo Leopold, A Sand County Almanac

TLC kicked off the Wildlife in Winter Series with Part I focused on habitat and hibernation this past Sunday at Bucktoe Creek Preserve. The sun was shining, all was white, and everyone had one goal in mind: explore the winter happenings. Many different species had left behind their unique markings on the trails. We followed tracks, scat and other clues that led us through meadows, woodlands and along the path of a small stream known as Gregg's Run. We eventually stumbled upon this den hole, which had a trail of fresh fox tracks leading out.

Fox den with tracks leading out.
As most of us know, hibernation is one way wildlife adapt to the winter conditions. During the fall season they stock up on food to begin storing fat while also finding the safest and most efficient place to prepare their winter hideaway. Once winter hits, body temperatures drop and their heartbeat and breathing rates slow down significantly. Animals often enter different levels of hibernation and in southeastern Pennsylvania we have certain wildlife species that, depending on winter conditions, cycle between a hibernation state and an active state.

Mammals, reptiles, amphibians, birds and even insects all have their own unique way to deal with the elements. An easy one to observe is the insect egg case of a praying mantis. Look near a meadow or brushy area and you will see tons of these little cases attached to thin and sturdy twigs near ground level. Photographed is one from the hike. This tiny case will produce 100-200 tiny mantises.

Praying mantis egg case.
As mentioned, hibernation in one way animals survive over the winter months, but what are the other ways? Join us for Part I and II of the Wildlife in Winter Series on February 15th and March 29th from 12pm - 1:30pm back at BCP!

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