'Non-winter' good for some, bad for others

Imagine if you were a varying hare this winter. In case you didn't know, these hares' camouflaging coloration changes from brown to white every winter, and then back to brown again come spring. So there you'd be, since back in November, a white hare trying to be invisible in an all brown-and-green environment. Every owl, hawk, fox and coyote could spot you from a country mile away. Your chances of survival would be less than they normally would be. When long-term abnormal seasonal weather occurs, some wildlife species benefit while others suffer.

So far, this season could only be called winter by the fact that it is occurring between the two equinoxes of fall and spring. The almost complete lack of any even moderate snowfall occurring, coupled with high temperatures that have set all sorts of records, more closely resembles a winter season south of the Mason-Dixon Line. Last Saturday, January 6, people were wandering around outside in shorts and short-sleeved shirts. I half expected to see some daffodils and crocuses popping up in gardens. The weather during last Saturday's Rogers Center's Winter Living Celebration was far better than what occurred during its Earth Day Fest last May. Winter? In name only.

The extremely mild weather has been a real benefit to deer, wild turkeys, grouse, cottontail rabbits and many species of birds. It's also made hunting easier for predator species like fox and coyote, that would normally be trying to catch voles beneath the snow or chasing fleet-footed rabbits and hares atop it. Deer and other prey species that normally must work hard to find food when deep snow covers the ground, are living on easy street this winter, unhindered by having to plow through snow to seek available food. The bare ground also makes escaping hungry predators easier, although they, too, find plenty to eat, such as those poor white hares.

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