These days, a cool blanket of snow has come to rest over all of campus, and when the temperatures drop below zero, it’s hard to imagine leaving the complex, much less living out there. How do different Minnesotan fauna survive, and which animals might still be active when you walk (or ski or snowshoe) the Arb?
Hibernation, of course, is a key method. And many critters do choose to sleep the winter away, including the common garter snakes and the tiny woodland jumping mouse. But it’s not the only way that fauna deal with the cold. Deer and short-tailed weasels both exchange their coats: deer sport thicker and darker fur, while the short-tailed weasel turns from brown to a snowy white. Beavers spend all fall in preparation, cutting trees and branches to both build their den and stockpile food. In the winter, beavers stay under the ice and consume the mounds of sticks they procured earlier (see more at https://northernwoodlands.org/outside_story/article /beavers-winter). Minks adopt a different form of this strategy, as they continue to hunt, but will stay buried in their dens for winter’s coldest weeks.
The Arb’s turtle species choose another means of survival. Both snapping and painted turtles live in ponds beneath the snow and ice where temperatures fluctuate far less. While their metabolism slows significantly, these creatures still move around in their aquatic environment (learn more at northcountypublicradio.org, turtles and natural selection).
Of course, it’s worth noting that not all animals devote energy to surviving in the snow and ice. Most of Carleton’s flock of geese head down south (although some intrepid birds do stay on the Lyman Lakes, and the number of fowl here year-round is increasing each year). Keep an eye out for those last geese this winter as they hunker down on the ice and await the return of spring.