Animals and Plants in Winter Hibernation, Migration, and Dormancy


Some animals hibernate during winter. This means that they go into a deep sleep. Their breathing slows down, their body temperature drops, and they live survive off of the fat they have stored up before winter began. Some animals store food like nuts and acorns to eat during hibernation. Some animals hibernate in caves, dens, or burrows underground. Below are some examples of animals that hibernate:


Black bears, Brown Bears and Grizzly Bears hibernate during the winter. They go into a deep sleep and will not wake up to any loud noises. They do not eat or release body waste. Bears eat more than usual during the fall so they are able to store body fat to get them through the winter. They hibernate in dens and caves. Polar Bears do NOT hibernate. They are white to blend into the snow where they live and are able to survive the winter because of blubber and thick fur.


The Eastern Gray Squirrel does not hibernate in winter. Eastern Gray Squirrels are the ones you normally see in trees around your house. These squirrels store up food to eat during the winter and are active during the winter months. Ground squirrels hibernate in dens underground. These squirrels sleep for 5 to 7 months. They eat lots of food before winter to store up plenty of fat for hibernation.


Snakes hibernate during the winter. Snakes such as rattlesnakes, copperheads, and cottonmouths go into hibernating in early winter. They hibernate in caves or deep holes, such as burrows. They also sometimes hibernate in rotting logs, inside barns, or under houses. Snakes must eat lots of food before they hibernate to be able to survive.


Some animals migrate during the winter. This means they move to a warmer place to be able to survive. They migrate to find warmer weather, more food, or to find a safe place to give birth to their young. Below are some animals that migrate:


Bluebirds migrate to warmer weather during the winter. Bluebirds travel in flocks (groups) to warmer areas such as Florida, Louisiana, and Mississippi.

Monarch Butterflies

Monarch butterflies migrate to warmer climates during the winter months. They usually begin migrating in October, but can start sooner if the weather turns cold early. Monarch Butterflies migrate to Mexico or Southern California where the weather is warm all year long. Monarch butterflies are the only insect to travel 2,500 miles during the winter.


During winter, many plants go dormant. This means they appear to be dead, but they are not. Trees lose their leaves and plants stop growing. Flowers do not bloom.

A rosebush goes dormant during the winter. It does not grow and does not produce flowers. It goes into a deep sleep and my appear dead. It will bloom again in spring.

Trees that normally have leaves go dormant during the winter. Apple trees, Maple Trees, and Oak Trees are examples of trees that go dormant.


Skunks are active during the winter. They do NOT hibernate. They sleep more during the winter, but still go outside to find food. During the coldest part of the winter they will stay in their dens. They enter a "torpor" which means their body temperatures and breathing slow down but they do not go into a complete hibernation. When the weather is a little warmer they go outside to find food.


Created with images by Zach Dischner - "Fog in the Valley, Candle in the Sky" • chascar - "Grizzly Bear" • likeaduck - "Squirrel" • Seattleye - "Grass Snake" • winnu - "IMG_5463-002" • FreeWine - "Butterfly" • kohane - "Whales" • Ylliab Photo - "Promenades d'Hiver" • Zanastardust - "coated"

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