With our meager snow pack dwindling from recent warmth and rain, some folks are happy. Others are sad, no doubt. Many look forward to a White Christmas. Many look forward to skiing and snowmobiling. Others enjoy not shoveling. Regardless of how people feel, have you ever stopped to consider that many living creatures depend on snow cover for warmth, cover, and hydration in the winter? It can be as much as 30 degrees warmer under the snow blanket than on top of it on a cold winter day!
For example many small mammals like moles and voles have a thriving life under the snow. It’s fascinating watching fox or even my dogs try to guess where they might be as they take a pouncing leap on the snow toward them. Squirrels often bury their food under the snow and have tunnels under it when they need to escape the brutal cold and perhaps predators as well. Birds such as ruffed grouse will sometimes bury themselves in deep fluffy snow to stay warm at night.
Here’s another thing. Do you like to eat snow? Your mother probably told you not to because it’s not clean. In fact there are little insect critters in it at times. One example is called a snow “flea”. It’s actually an arthropod that typically shows up on somewhat warmer, sunnier days. You might want to look for these near the base of big trees where it warms up faster and the snow tends to melt and recede a bit. At first blush they may look like some splotches of dirt or ash on the snow. After closer inspection you may find them springing around. They actually are out and about all year in the leaf litter, but they are more visible when the snow is there as a backdrop.
You can read an interesting and more thorough explanation of snow “fleas” from this link below from the Wisconsin DNR. http://www.dnr.state.wi.us/org/caer/ce/eek/critter/insect/snowflea.htm
This post was written by Tony Schumacher on December 12, 2011