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Some Ways Mammals Stay Warm In Winter

When temperatures drop significantly, mammals that stay active in the winter have a variety of ways to keep warm, one of which is to have layers of insulation to prevent their body heat from escaping.  Often there is a layer of fat under the skin. In addition to providing a source of energy, fat doesn’t transfer heat as well as other tissues such as muscle or skin, and thus helps to insulate an animal’s body. The next layer consists of a short, dense coat of underfur which is filled with air pockets that provide insulation.  Lastly there frequently is a third layer of oily, water-repellent guard hairs which excel at keeping out water. They are often transparent and hollow, providing extra thermal insulation.

Voles, mice, shrews and red squirrels use elaborate tunnels systems under the snow to escape cold temperatures and strong winds.  Flying Squirrels huddle together in groups to keep warm. Shivering is a warming technique used by many mammals, including humans.  And some active animals, like the pictured Gray Squirrel, simply find a sheltered spot in the sun, close their eyes, and soak up the warmth!  (Thanks to Jody Crosby for photo op.)

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6 responses

  1. Linda L. Crowe w

    This photo and the text will make my whole day warm and fuzzy.

    November 18, 2019 at 8:22 am

  2. Alice

    Perfect spot for a Squirrel to get warmed by the sun.

    November 18, 2019 at 8:26 am

  3. Dell Waterhouse

    I love that this squirrel is basking in the sun – something I love to do on a cold day, as well!

    November 18, 2019 at 8:56 am

  4. “one of which is to have layers of insulation to prevent their body heat from escaping” technically one cannot prevent heat from escaping but only reduce the rate at which it escapes by either adding insulation or moving to a warmer spot. It is absolutely incredible—and I use that word purposefully—that living creatures survive winter temperatures! Bernd Heinrich’s “Winter World” is a great read on many variations for survival.

    November 18, 2019 at 9:26 am

  5. That is a very cute photo!

    November 18, 2019 at 9:30 am

  6. kathiefive

    Not to mention curling their fluffy tails around themselves! Especially if they are a grey squirrel or a fox.

    November 18, 2019 at 10:01 am

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