How Does Ohio Wildlife Survive Cold, Ohio Winters?

Have you ever wondered how Ohio wildlife survive the cold Ohio winters? We bundle up, put extra blankets on our beds, build fires in the fireplace or crank up the heat, but what do animals do? Ohio wildlife have learned to adapt and cope with Ohio weather. Some wildlife choose to migrate while others stay. The Ohio wildlife that stays grow thicker coats, eat extra food to keep them warm, and more.

Where Do They Go in Winter: Eagles

You can spot eagles in the winter more often than any other time since the lack of leaves on many tree. You’ll find eagles where the food is in the winter and that is where the water isn’t frozen over. Eagles migrate in search of open water near dams, lakes, or reservoirs that are free of ice. Eagles begin nesting activity and begin to lay eggs as early as late January. Keep an eye on the sky sky for soaring eagles and you might see a juvenile like the one pictured. Juvenile eagles can be just as large as adult eagles, but without the white head and tail plumage until the age 4 or 5. Learn more about bald eagles at wildohio.gov

Where Do They Go in Winter: Frogs

Bullfrogs are aquatic frogs and hibernate underwater. Frogs can breathe through their lungs or their skin so during Ohio’s long, cold winter, they breathe through their skin underwater. During winter hibernation, a bullfrog will increase the amount of sugar to their vital organs, acting like your car’s antifreeze. This is how a bullfrog can be encased in a block of ice but still not be completely frozen and then come back ‘alive’ in the spring and swim away!

Learn more fun facts about Ohio’s frogs (and salamanders!) in our Amphibians of Ohio Field Guide at wildohio.gov

Where Do They Go in Winter: Otters

Ohio river otters grow an extra thick coat to fight again the cold and stay active during the winter to take advantage of what winter offers.Their thick undercoat and water-repellant outer coat allow them to survive the coldest of Ohio winters with no problem. Otters like crayfish and hunt during the day through openings in the ice. If an otter can’t find an opening, he will search a nearby beaver dam to get under the ice and into open water.

Be on the lookout for otters in rivers, lakes, and marshes where there is minimal human disturbance. Learn more about Ohio’s otters at wildohio.gov

Best Ohio Otter Viewing Areas:
– Grand River Wildlife Area, Ashtabula County
– Mosquito Creek Wildlife Area, Trumbull County
– Killbuck Marsh Wildlife Area, Wayne & Holmes counties
– Stillwater Creek, Harrison & Tuscarawas counties
– Little Muskingum River, Monroe & Washington counties


Where Do They Go in Winter: Turkeys

Ohio turkeys can’t migrate south for the winter like other birds. Ohio wild turkeys have tough legs and feet to scratch the icy ground in search of acorns and seeds to sustain them throughout Ohio’s winter. Turkeys can also eat buds, ferns, and moss. Like other birds that stay for the winter, turkeys fluff up their feathers to trap warm air close to their bodies to keep warm – kinda like a puffy winter coat you would wear. Learn more about wild turkeys at wildohio.gov.

Where Do They Go in Winter: Snakes

Gartersnakes are everywhere in Ohio, you’ve probably seen them in your yard in the spring and summer months. In the winter, they are harder to spot as they are hibernating. They eat no food and live off their fat reserves like bears do. A gartersnake’s metabolism slows down to the point that it uses almost no energy over the winter. They hunker down below the frost line since they are ectothermic (cold-blooded). They may hybernatein animal burrows or rotten tree stumps. Many snakes will hibernate together.

Learn more fun facts about Ohio’s snakes (and turtles!) in our Reptiles of Ohio Field Guide at wildohio.gov

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Jamey Emmert
Jamey Emmert, a native of southeast Ohio, serves as a Wildlife Communications Specialist for the ODNR Division of Wildlife’s NE Ohio district and is stationed in Akron. After graduating from Hocking College with an Associate Degree in Wildlife Management, she began her career with the Division in 2003. Jamey’s responsibilities vary greatly and include serving as a liaison between the Division and the news media, conducting informational workshops and programs connecting Ohioans with the outdoors, creating educational exhibits at various events, and partnering with educators who want to provide educational experiences to others regarding conservation of our natural resources. In her spare time, Jamey enjoys traveling, deer hunting, fishing for anything with gills, searching fields for ancient artifacts, gardening, and birding all in between coats of pink nail polish. You’ll likely find her outdoors and at any given moment next to her husband, Greg, and canine companion, Sophie.
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