How Do Animals Adapt to Cold Weather?

Every animal displays different adaptations to cold weather. Many birds migrate and travel to a warmer place in the fall before the winter sets in. Smaller animals, such as deer mice, ground squirrels, hamsters and skunks, hibernate. Arctic animals, however, take advantage of the long winter to feed and breed.

Many animals adapt to the cold weather by shedding their old coats and growing a warmer and thicker fur to serve as insulation and protection against the cold. The snowshoe hare sheds its brown summer fur and grows a snowy white fur that camouflages it to protect against predators and allow it to forage for food during winter. Rabbits do not hibernate, but remain active in the dusk or dawn to hunt for food. Some animals, such as squirrels, mice and beavers, gather and store food in the fall.

Due to the scarcity of food in the winter, many animals change their diet in order to survive the cold months. Rabbits prefer fresh forage in spring and summer, but they eat tree barks, twigs and even small insects in the winter. The red fox mostly consumes fresh fruits and insects in summer, fall and spring, but in colder months, it satisfies its diet by hunting small rodents.

Arctic animals, however, such as penguins and polar bears, are able to thrive in the cold weather, thanks to the layer of blubber under their skin and their oily fur and insulating coats. Their fur provides protection against the cold and prevents their body heat from dissipating into the cold air.