After a relatively warm December, we are finally getting winter weather in January. While areas like New York City are being hit with cold rains rather than winter snow, how does the late start to the winter affect wild animals near you?
Cool-weather is often the signal for wild animals to start preparing for the winter’s chill. But with a warmer fall, and a later winter animals like squirrels, bears and more can’t properly prepare for the winter. These animals won’t be able to properly prepare dens or food stores for their hibernation. This can often lead to more desperate attempts at survival.
For animals like squirrels, groundhogs, and other smaller animals, this can mean a drive towards civilizations and homes. Pest animals will often work their way into human homes after the weather gets surprisingly cold for them.
For larger animals such as bears, they can remain active and become desperate for food supplies that aren’t often available in the winter. This can lead to more bears going through garbage cans and moving towards more populated areas. Some bears are changing their hibernation routines, scientists say. In some cases, bears are not hibernating at all, staying awake all winter. In others, bears are waking from their slumber too early.
Animals like skunks and raccoons that do not hibernate, but will usually spend more time in their dens in the cold will also be more active. These animals may need to rely on human waste products for more of their diet than normal, and will likely search for dens nearer to reliable trash bins.
Spring mating patterns can potentially be disrupted or postponed due to late winters. This can throw off cyclical patterns of animals, potentially for years. Effects of this may lead to growing populations of pest animals, as warmer weather can lead to more mating seasons.