As we welcome the New Year, we also welcomed the rollercoaster that is a Minnesota winter. Heavy snow cover last week after months of hardly any. Fifteen to twenty below zero. High winds. Overcast, and then blazing sun. And now the warmer temps we have all been waiting for. It is hard on us, with our central heating, well insulated houses and machines to dig out the roads and paths. It is even harder to understand how the wild ones can even survive, much less thrive in this weather!
With this deep snow, the game has changed for many. Smaller animals find places to make runways under logs and brush, giving them a protected space to hunt for seeds and other food. Mid-sized animals, foxes, mink, rabbits, are finding the going more challenging. It is such a fluffy snow that they sink down into it. If it develops a crust (if it melts in the next few days) they may find the going easier on top. Larger animals like deer and coyotes can push through the fluff, but it is hard work, burning more calories. The wind has created spots where the grasses are less covered so the deer can find browse, but as it builds up over the winter and forms harder crusts, the deer find it more challenging. Personally I am hoping for a crust so I can walk in my snowshoes. Currently they just sink in as far as my boots do.
The snow helps insulate in the bitter cold, giving animals protection from the cold and wind. As long as the snow doesn't crust over, pheasants and grouse will be popping out of snowbanks, heading for the cedar trees for food and shelter.
So after temps like we had over New Year, the question pops up "Where is global warming when we need it?" If you have lived around here for many years, you have seen the changes. It seems like there is an earlier winter, less snow, and then spring is all over the place, some years early, some years nonexistent. Climate change is a better term. Looking at the bigger picture, over years, not seasons, the changes are obvious for the planet. Around here, when we are twenty below, our windows frost over and it is harder to see it.