Ah, the first, true snowfall of winter—there’s something enchanting and nostalgic about it. It bears to mind thoughts of early-morning parishes around the TV-altar, awaiting Holy Word from the Superintendent, for no mere normal-intendent is He who through his divine and inscrutable methods shall Giveth snow days, or else shall Taketh Away the happiness of every grade school child in the neighborhood.
Oh, wait, it’s spring? And I’m not eight years old anymore? Then I don’t have much of a spiel for what’s going on right now, except to say it’s going to be a pain to get the car out of the driveway, and if the local superintendent does see his shadow or whatever, those damn kids better stay off my lawn. But I’m not bitter.
Seriously, though, we have very little to be bitter about. How do you think the animals are coping? (“Whoa, I did not see that segue coming!” –Someone who has never read this blog.) I mean, we all know about the ones who plan for the winter. Those swallows with their southbound migrations and their travel itineraries and their Miami Beach Wet-Plumage Contests. Or bears, who’s strategy is to carbo-load and gain thirty pounds a week before losing the weight by sleeping through the winter months—a strategy I’ve unwittingly been employing every holiday season.
But what about the other animals, the ones who can’t fly and who are too good for season-long sleeping binges? How do they get by?
The answer is, not too comfortably, but they do have their ways. Take the mule deer, a species so common in my neighborhood they’re beginning to petition for pool access. Like many dogs they grow a heavy winter coat to shield themselves from the cold. They can also “adjust the angle of their hair shafts to obtain maximum insulation,” a phrase I chose to print verbatim from the source because the writing staff of the Maine government has apparently perfected a mix of ludicrousness and vaguely dirty-sounding language that I can only hope to achieve.
Deer are known to stock up on body fat before the winter hits as well. By the beginning of the season, fat reserves may account for up to 30% of the deer’s body mass, which help insulate it further against the cold. More importantly, they’re going to need that fat to get them through the hardest part of winter—finding food.
Come back next week for a look into the brutal, hungry lives of foragers during snowfall, and a thrilling exposé on the dangers of human-run winter feeding programs (no, seriously).