Winter has settled in much quicker than expected here in Wisconsin this year. And with the cold weather, any of the normal animals that we deal with through the year such as bats, chipmunks, and woodchucks, stop causing problems for the next few months, almost like magic. It’s not magic, though, it’s because these animals hibernate.
What exactly is hibernation? Well, the official definition of hibernation is “a state of inactivity and metabolic depression in endotherms.” Basically, what this means is that these warm-blooded animals spend the winter in a sleep-like state. Their heart rate slows down, as does their breathing, and their body temperature gets almost as low as the air temperature around them. The decrease in body temperature lowers their metabolic rate as well, meaning they don’t need to eat as often.
So why do animals hibernate? There are actually different types of hibernation, based on the reason why an animal hibernates. Many animals, like the ground squirrel, are what are known as obligate hibernators, meaning that they go into hibernation based on internal cues, rather than external cues like weather or resource availability. Others, like prairie dogs, are known as facultative hibernators. These animals go into hibernation because of external cues like a decrease in temperature or lack of food. Hibernation allows animals to survive the chilly temperatures and lack of insect food for long periods of time, without the need to migrate.
What animals hibernate? Many of the animals we encounter, such as raccoons, skunks, mice, and squirrels are still active throughout winter. Other common animals, such as woodchucks (also known as groundhogs) and ground squirrels and chipmunks do hibernate, as do some species of our flying friends the bat. Even bears hibernate, although we don’t come across those much in our line of work, thankfully.
If you’ve had issues with woodchucks or chipmunks in the past few months, you’re in luck and should be free from troubles for the season. However, we’re still here to help with any other pest, rodent, and wildlife control needs that you may have!