Concerns about changing weather patterns and how they affect wildlife are not new. Canadian Inuit leaders were speaking out in 2009 and even earlier.
Sila Alangotok made a documentary in April 2012 called “Inuit Observations on Climate Change”. In it residents of Canada’s High Artic Inuit community relate generations of their observations on weather and wildlife movements. It’s easily accessible on YouTube for free. It was pointed out multiple times that the weather extremes weren’t the biggest concern. After all, Inuit are used to living in extremes and are well adapted to it. The biggest concern is the unpredictability.
We don’t need to travel to the High Arctic to see what happens when the weather doesn’t follow its normal patterns. We need only look into our nursery.
This unusually warm and unpredictable fall resulted in this toad being out a little later than he should’ve been. He was slowly walking across a road on November 14th when he was brought in. He is now set up in his own little winter environment and thriving until the spring warms up enough to release him. Whenever that might be.
This blue-spotted salamander had a similar journey to us. He was discovered while someone was shoveling the first real snowfall we had on November 23rd. Salamanders are usually tucked deep into their winter logs or leaf litter long before snow -at least in normal Wisconsin weather patterns. He, too, is now set up in his own little winter ecosystem. He was recently joined by another salamander found in a basement…the typical way we admit salamanders in winter.
Another possible “victim” of our warm fall could be the national celebrity bear we have. Just before Christmas, when most bears are deep into their winter slumber, she was approaching cars on a busy highway, putting her feet on the doors and looking in. Some think the warm “woke” her up and she got hungry and started to look for food. We’re still not sure why she was playing in traffic. Bears will occasionally arouse when temps get warm, but they don’t usually head to cars for food. She’s being overwintered to be re-evaluated in the spring.
Patients we care for over the winter, a term we call “Overwinter”, are cared for until the weather warms enough in the spring for them to be able to be released. The criteria for this vary for each species, but every one depends on weather patterns. Weather patterns that grow the plants they need or to bring the insects they need to eat.
These patterns can also be unpredictable which can cause some challenges for us when we have new admissions arriving but already have Overwinters in their enclosure spaces.
Here’s hoping for some more normal weather patterns for everyone’s sake.