Rising temperatures will eventually lead to snowmelt; while hiking on trails around the
nimals made their homes in the layers of the snow in hopes of surviving the harsh season ahead.
During the snowmelt of springtime is when we usually see the signs of subnivean habitation. The subnivean life, one which is lived below the surface of snow in the many layers where air is trapped (which then acts as insulation), can be home to a variety of rodents and other small mammals. Meadow voles (Microtus pennylvanicus) pi
ctured left, and shrews (Cryptotis parva) both typically not known to congregate in large groups, will nest together, colonizing beneath the snow. This enables them to conserve energy and keep warm. By huddling and massing together, these small mammals are able to decrease their surface area, greatly reducing the amount of heat loss. If you have a bird feeder in your yard, you can often see red or grey squirrels popping their heads up from beneath the snow, grabbing some seed and then disappearing to the safety of their tunnel.
There are even predators in the
While hiking this spring, keep an eye out for evidence of our subnivean friends. Following red fox tracks through the woods can often lead to an area where small mammals have hunkered down for the colder months. Red fox (Vulpes vulpes) Their footsteps provide a record of their hunting excursions. are adept winter hunters, using their keen sense of smell and hearing to help them locate the networks of burrows inhabited by rodents and small mammals.
Interested in learning more about animals in the winter? Join a Naturalist Guide at the AMC’s