How To Help Wildlife In Winter?


With winter here, many people are asking me about the best ways to help wildlife. There are some easy ways to help them survive, and I have listed these for you here.

 Consider putting out extra food and drinking water for wildlife in winter. Let your garden grow wild to give them places to hibernate and provide shelter if possible.

For more information on how to help wildlife in winter, please read on.

Is Winter Difficult For Wildlife?

The months of winter can be very difficult for many species of wildlife. When temperatures drop, humans are lucky enough to have insulated boots, shelter, and heating to keep warm. 

Many of the animals in North America can be casualties of the cold climate. The fur on most mammals doesn’t provide them with the much-needed insulation to keep warm. Without the needed fat reserves on their skin, small animals can not insulate the body against heat loss. 

During the winter, food and fresh water are scarce, which also makes it hard for these animals to survive. Avoiding the cold is vital for animals to make it through winter.

Chipmunk feeding

One challenge to all warm-blooded animals is to sustain their body temperatures. However, a lot of warm-blooded animals have developed some adaptations, which means they can bear the cold.

How Do Wildlife Survive Winter?

Wildlife have different methods of surviving the harsh temperatures in winter. Some of these animals will go into hibernation, while others will migrate to warmer places. 

Some small animals, including raccoons, skunks, and squirrels, will invade homes in search of food, warmth, and a safe place to reside. 

During this time, animals will hunker down in logs, whilst others choose leaf piles, tree barks, or even find other animals abandoned homes to keep warm.

Raccoon feeding

Some animals, such as opossums and squirrels, do not hibernate. Instead, they use their fat reserves to keep warm and hide from the cold to survive. 

In winter, fresh water and food are very scarce, and many wildlife lovers choose to help the animals in their gardens. Most animals struggle to find food and are also at risk of being attacked by larger predators.  

Some mammals hibernate or enter torpor, dropping their body temperatures and heartbeat as low as possible to preserve their lives. This also reduces the need for as much food. 

How Can We Help Wildlife In Winter?

Animals struggle to survive the season because there is less food, and the cold temperatures reduce their core body temperature.

For this reason, it is always worth trying to help animals in winter. By helping them survive through the winter, you are helping not only them, but also any young that they may have in the future.

Squirrel feeding

Animals will appreciate any food and fresh water that you put out for them. 

What To Feed Wild Animals During The Winter?

The first question that you may have now that you have decided to help wildlife is the type of food that they will need.  

Most of these small animals, including raccoons, squirrels, and opossums, will always appreciate groundnuts, vegetables, hazelnuts, biscuits, and sunflowers. 

You can as well choose to offer sunflower, nuts, and cat biscuits to the wild animals just as a way of supporting their lives through this tough season.

Squirrel Feeding

However, do not feed them bread or milk as this can cause diarrhea. 

Squirrels will also appreciate watermelons, grapes, and kiwi fruit. Most squirrels and small animals love nuts and acorns.

However, they sometimes feed on eggs and plant materials like flowers and leaves. 

How To Feed Wildlife During The Winter?

Wildlife will always approach your yard in the hope of finding food. For this reason, you can get some nuts or vegetables and keep them in the backyard. 

Special feeders can be purchased for feeding opossums, squirrels, and other small animals into your yard. These should also keep rodents such as rats away as they will not be able to get to the food.

Once the winter is over, if you wish to remove the feeders, then you can, thus limiting the amount of animals in your yard in other seasons.

Water can also be scarce for animals in winter, with many normal water sources icing over. Putting a bowl of warm water out will really help any small animals in winter.

Have you ever wondered how red foxes survive the winter. You might be as surprised as I was when I wrote this article.

Provide Them With Shelter

Also, remember some small mammals such as raccoons and opossums are very active during the night, sleeping during the day. For this reason, try to make sure there is food out there at night, as this is the time they will be out there looking for fresh water and food.

raccoon

If you have an outhouse that you are currently not in use, you can put corn and nuts in there for the animals to eat. This can also be a good place for them to make their home for the winter.

Winter is the time of the year when you should allow your garden and home to turn wild. 

However, I don’t recommend you letting these animals access your house, as they can spread disease.

Let Your Garden Grow

During the winter, you should help these animals by all means possible. Besides feeding them, it is a great time to allow your yard to go wild. 

Leave undisturbed areas where these animals can reside. This can be piles of leaves or bushes that can offer a warm habitat to them. This is also a good place for them to hibernate.

Overgrown garden

Break The Ice

You can expect a lot of ice during the winter, and this stops many animals from getting enough to drink. Break the ice on any water sources, and give room for the animals to drink. 

Provide Fresh Water

Try to provide clean water to these animals. This will encourage small animals to visit your garden regularly. Do not provide them with any other types of drink, whether milk or carbonated drinks. These can cause diarrhea and other problems when consumed. 

Provide Shelter

Many animals don’t have the right adaptations to survive the winter weather. Some do not have enough fur or fat reserves and can lose their body temperatures quickly.

This is one of the main reasons why you see them in your garden trying to look for food and warmer areas to reside in. The good thing is that most wild animals are not harmful to human beings, and they also don’t destroy plants. For this reason, you can set aside undisturbed areas where these animals can live.

Chipmunk

Create A Nest

If you have already cut your herbaceous perennials, you can bundle the stems together to serve as a habitat for small mammals. This is one of the best ways to keep these animals housed and warm during the season. Always remember you are not supposed to disturb them until the hibernation period is over.

Do Not Light Fires Before Checking For Animals

This is actually one of the most overlooked parts of looking after wildlife. If you have built a fire in your garden and left it, then many small animals may have made their nest in there. 

During the winter month, many animals may have chosen these areas as the best place to hibernate. For that reason, always check before you light the fire.

Try To Provide A Natural Source Of Food

If you have a larger yard, consider planting some plants that these animals can feed on. Any fruit plants and vegetables you plant can serve as a natural source of food for the hungry animals.

Deer survive winter with some fantastic adaptations to the cold. To find out more you can read this article which I have written here.

Bryan Harding

Bryan has spent his whole life around animals. While loving all animals, Bryan is especially fond of mammals and has studied and worked with them around the world. Not only does Bryan share his knowledge and experience with our readers, but he also serves as owner, editor, and publisher of North American Mammals.

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