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Ruffed Grouse Snow Cave

1-3-12 grouse tunnel IMG_0042When the snow on the ground is 10” or more deep, and the night is very cold, ruffed grouse often seek shelter from the elements by diving into the snow and spending the night there. Sometimes they burrow five or ten feet into the snow, but sometimes, as in this case, they stay pretty much where they landed, perhaps a foot or so deep in the snow bank. This adaptive behavior not only hides them from predators, but serves to insulate the bird, as it rarely goes below 20 degrees F. in the cavity, regardless of how cold the air is. More often than not, the grouse defecates during its stay in the snow (dark matter in photograph). When leaving its snow cave, sometimes a grouse will burst out of the snow as it flies away, but as you can see from the groove in the snow in this photograph, this grouse chose to travel by foot.

4 responses

  1. Perhaps, er, it had ‘cold feet’ about leaving a safe place – ??! Sorry, Very bad pun……..!

    January 2, 2013 at 3:05 pm

  2. Snow, it looks so good while I’m here in Australia in 40 C, 104 F heat!

    January 3, 2013 at 9:27 pm

  3. Doug Sherry


    I am enjoying your daily photos and comments immensely!

    The roughed grouse snow cave brought back memories of finding a dead grouse in one with a group of MEEP students. The grouse had burrowed into the snow as you describe, but overnight a freezing rain trapped the grouse and cut off the air, smothering the grouse.



    REALTOR, Green; ECO Consultant; SRES


    39 Woodfin Street

    Asheville, NC 28801

    828-713-3719, Cell

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    January 6, 2013 at 12:53 pm

    • Wow. I have heard of this happening, but never known anyone who actually found a grouse trapped. To have found it with MEEP students is really something. Wish I’d been there!

      January 6, 2013 at 1:14 pm

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