Mild winter (so far) is beneficial to wildlife ... and us

Despite a week or so of some below normal temperatures, this winter season is shaping up to be a relatively good one for most wildlife. Our snowfall so far have been of the “nickel and dime” variety with no really large single storm accumulations. For it is deep prolonged snow that can play havoc with many species of wildlife.

When major snowfalls occur early, say in late November, the deep snow covering has two negative effects on wildlife: it makes locating and reaching ground-level food difficult and also makes travel to locate it more difficult for ground-based species. Even avian species can be affected unless they can locate foodstuffs that are available above the snow line. The latter is why we see so many birds come to feeders in winter.

Another enemy of wildlife is freezing rain since it can coat the ground, as well as trees and bushes that provide foodstuffs, with ice, making it more difficult for wildlife to reach and consume vital nutrition when they need it most. It can also do the same with avian species, coating their feathers with ice and sapping their strength when trying to fly or otherwise move to different locations. If the snow is deep and a heavy crust forms, it can actually benefit smaller species that are supported by the hard layer while proving to be an obstacle to larger species that break through the crust.

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