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Sleeping in the Snow

It is 2018 and the winter is brutal with temperatures hovering around zero degrees and snows blanketing much of the U.S. People survive this weather in heated shelter with ample food supplies and when they do venture out, coats, hats, gloves all help protect them from the cold.

Wildlife also adapt to the harsh winter weather. Many species migrate south to warmer climates. Some burrow into the ground. Others find shelter in tree cavities or rocky dens. Many mammals and birds are active in the winter seeking food and temporary shelter from winter storms.

One animal adapted to the challenges of winter is the raccoon. Raccoons are active all winter. These animals, like many mammals, engorge on food in the fall creating a thick fat reserve to keep them warm and to use for energy to get them through the winter. Additionally, raccoons grow a coat of thick coarse fur that helps conserve energy and like a winter coat that we put on, to stay warm

I was witness to how a raccoon survives when one winter day; snow fell from the sky at a furious pace coating the landscape in a white blanket. Outside my office window a raccoon climbed up to the first crotch in a three-story tall sycamore tree where it rolled into a ball. As the snow fell it coated the raccoon’s fur which made it difficult to see the animal. It stayed in the tree all afternoon and I left it at dusk when I went home to the warmth of my house.

The next morning after 12+ inches fell, I checked the tree and the raccoon was gone. Many birds came to our feeders and deer wandered past my office window. To the wildlife, it was just another day.

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