How Do Animals Stay Warm in Winter?

by | Nov 2020

Robin and rabbit illustration


The few animals that stay in Minnesota and above ground in the winter all utilize tried-and-true elements to stay warm.

As the season of cold starts in earnest, I start thinking about how animals stay warm. Of course, many show remarkably good judgment and just leave for warmer climates or dig themselves far enough into the earth to curl up and hang out for half the year in the constant 57 degree temperature the core of the Earth provides.

But the few animals that stay in Minnesota and above ground (deer, rabbits, chickadees, crows, ubiquitous squirrels and the goats in our barn, for example) all utilized tried-and-true elements to stay warm—fur and feathers. Both of these adaptations create tiny pockets of air, either between the individual hairs of fur or the layers of down and feathers, creating a kind of insulation.

I know this first-hand. Over the years, I have acquired a set of vintage or second-hand fur and feather garments that keep me warm from head to toe. They include a Soviet-era Russian rabbit fur hat, a decade old down jacket and a pair of hand-me-down Italian goat fur boots.

I certainly understand the move away from fur, especially from wild animals. But the fact that I can hold onto my body heat because of the marvel of thermal engineering that is fur (which still works even decades after it warmed its original owner) fills me with wonder and gratitude.

Anne Marie Ruff Grewal is a writer, editor and environmentalist


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