Animals Preparing for Winter

Garter Snake - Courtesy of CVC's Jon Clayton

After Labour Day, we pull out our cozy knit sweaters and prepare our homes for the cold months ahead. We’re not alone. Here’s the skinny on some familiar animals of the Credit River watershed and what they do to get ready for winter:


A frog’s first priority is finding a winter home. The Credit River watershed has both aquatic and terrestrial frog and toad species. Aquatic species hibernate underwater and terrestrial species hibernate on land.

Bullfrog - Courtesy of Liz West via Flickr Creative Commons
Bullfrog – Courtesy of Liz West via Flickr Creative Commons

The bullfrog is an aquatic species and is the largest frog in the watershed. When fall rolls around, they begin to search for ponds or streambeds that won’t completely freeze and will provide healthy amounts of oxygen.

Luckily for frogs, food isn’t a huge priority in the winter. Unlike squirrels who must search for and store food to eat throughout winter, frogs have a unique skill that allows them to hibernate without hunting. Frogs are able to slow down their heart-rate to conserve energy. No wonder they can leap as high as two meters during warmer months. Wouldn’t you want to stretch your legs after months of being nearly frozen?


Similar to frogs, winter real-estate is top priority for snakes. In September and October, snakes spend more time foraging in order to put on body fat in preparation for hibernation. They search for winter homes in areas with lots of foliage and crevices in the ground so they can burrow beneath the frost line.

Garter Snake - Courtesy of CVC's Jon Clayton
Garter Snake – Courtesy of CVC’s Jon Clayton

The frost line is the depth at which groundwater in soil is expected to freeze. In our area, this is typically about four feet below the surface.

Garter snakes are commonly found in the watershed and luckily for them, they’re a hibernacula species. This means they hibernate in a large group. Gartner snakes work together to burrow themselves deep within the earth in order to avoid freezing during the winter. Talk about the ultimate slumber party!


Much like humans, beavers continually adjust their homes throughout the year to adapt to changing seasons. Beavers live in shelters surrounded by water called lodges, which they share with other family members.


While beavers are active year-round, fall is a crucial time for them because this is when they start collecting materials to prepare their lodges for winter. Materials like fallen trees, branches and sticks are used to sturdy the structure and prevent predators from entering. Mud, grasses and debris are collected for the foundation of the lodge and to provide insulation.

Beavers are master carpenters. Within the lodge, they construct chambers separate from the communal space where they sleep, eat, groom and nurse their young. We all need a little privacy! The air can get pretty stuffy with so many beavers in such a tight space. That’s why beavers build chimney-like openings in their lodges to let in fresh air.

Are you interested in learning more about the animals of the Credit River watershed? Visit our watershed science page.

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