Unlike the popular winter song, wildlife species can’t sit by a nice fireplace when the winter weather arrives in earnest. On the Frontenac Arch, winter is on the way and for many species that means it’s time to find the way out. Many species obviously migrate to a variety of wintering habitats to the south and for some it is quite a journey. Osprey for example can migrate as far as South America, travelling over 160,000 km in a lifetime. Monarch butterflies have a very unique migration story, as generations that live in Ontario and have never seen their winter grounds in Mexico are able to make their way to very specific areas there. Unfortunately, as milkweed is disappearing along their route so too are the butterflies and noticeably few were seen this year travelling south. If you have milkweed on your property, think about keeping it there or even creating a monarch garden to help them out.
Some species of course stay behind and find ways to manage the winter conditions. Gray ratsnakes, found almost solely on the Frontenac Arch in Canada and a threatened species, are true hibernators, finding rock crevices and spaces under the ice and snow where they may only breathe once or twice a day. Turtles and frogs usually dig themselves into muddy shorelines or lake bottoms and enter into what’s known as a torpid state – sleep, to survive the winter. Some species just have to grin and bare it and it can be a real difficult time for them. Harsh winters can impact deer populations greatly for example. Some species actually like coming here for the winter, like many owl species typically only found up north, that call the Frontenac Arch home during the winter months.
We may not all love winter but we all have our own ways of getting through it and wildlife is no different, other than for them it is often a matter of life or death. Just as you may winterize your home, you can do the same to wildlife homes to help species like frogs and turtles out if you have them on your property. Provide protected areas where they can access depths below the frost-line. Below are a few links that may be of interest…let it snow, let it snow, let it snow.