Winter is right around the corner! As you bundle up and head to The Parklands for your cool, morning hike, you may notice some changes to our wildlife! Kentucky’s cold winters mean that many of the animals in our park adapt to the temperature by going into hibernation.
Hibernation can look different depending on the animal, but it generally means that an animal will decrease their body temperature and slow their metabolism so they can survive the winter without exerting much energy. Some of the unique hibernators in the park include:
1. Butterflies/Caterpillars – some caterpillars create a chrysalis at the end of summer and enter diapause (that’s insect-speak for hibernation). For swallowtail chrysalises, diapause lasts from September until March, when the increased light and higher temperatures trigger the newly formed butterfly to hatch!
2. Squirrels – talk about packing on the pounds! The squirrel’s weight gain is caused by munching on nutrient rich nuts and the development of a thick winter coat. Squirrels will also spend late fall burying nuts throughout their habitat to prepare for a barren winter. During this time, squirrels can gather up to 3 years’ worth of nuts!
3. Garter Snakes – not for the faint of heart! To stay warm in the winter, garter snakes will gather in dens. These colonies allows these harmless reptiles to share their body heat. Most snake dens around here will have less than 100 snakes, but some garter snake dens up north can hold up to 10,000 snakes!
4. Spring Peepers – these frogs may have one of the most extreme hibernations! In the fall, a spring peeper’s body will begin to use sugars to create a natural antifreeze, which allows this frog’s cells to remain undamaged while the rest of its body freezes into ice during the wintertime! In the spring when temperatures rise, these little frogs will unfreeze and begin their signature mating call.
5. Groundhog – one of the most famous hibernators known for their mythological ability to predict spring, groundhogs will dig new dens specifically for hibernation. These dens are below the frostline, guaranteeing slightly warmer temperatures for the sleepy rodent!
If you are interested in hibernation or wish to meet a REAL groundhog, head out to The Parklands on Saturday, February 1, 2020, for our first Junior Explorer event of the new year! The event will celebrate Groundhog Day and will feature guided hikes, crafts, and native wildlife! Junior Explorer: Groundhog Day