Warmer Than Normal Winter Altering Animal Hibernation Schedules

Whether you believe in global warming or not, you’d probably agree that this year’s winter was rather mild compared to previous years. Freakishly warm, really. And while the warm weather has probably been enjoyed by most, according to wildlife specialists, the warm winter won’t settle too well with the Animal Kingdom. And in the end, it’s not going to settle with humans very well either.

Paul Curtis, a professor of natural resources and wildlife specialist with Cornell University says his biggest concern is the black bears. Usually, they are hibernating through the blistery snowstorms from October to March. But with a winter that has averaged at least five degrees above normal, the bears are likely to wake earlier this year.

“By mid- to late February, black bears will be coming out of their dens,” stated Curtis. “They’ll be hungry when they come out of their dens after hibernating all winter. Their fat reserves will be gone and they’ll be looking for easy food.”

But at least bears eat mostly plants, meaning that they will mostly go after bird feeders and human created food sources, such as fruit trees, gardens and trash cans. If weather continues to stay warm, humans (and animals) may have an even bigger problem on their hands soon…mosquitos and ticks.

While bears are most definitely larger than mosquitos and ticks, bears pose very little threat to humans. Ticks and mosquitos, however, pose a pretty big threat to humans, carrying Lyme Disease, West Nile and other diseases. But even when they don’t carry disease, they are extremely obnoxious.

And as if the warmer weather weren’t enough of a contribution to the upcoming mosquito season, Curtis says that bats, which usually feast on the obnoxious blood suckers, are on the decline in North America. Apparently, the bats have contracted a fungus, which may be causing them to wake from hibernation too early. This early waking means they starve to death because there aren’t any mosquitos for them to feed on in January and February.

“We may have lost five and a half to six and a half million bats in eastern North America in the last five years,” Curtis stated.

But there is one hope for the summer…sort of.

“Mosquitos need standing water for breeding,” Curtis said.

So, if the weather stays dry in spring, then the mosquito swarms may be lower than expected. Of course, a dry spring could mean dry crops in the spring and summer months of 2012. So, we either take the mosquitos or we hope for a drought. Seems like we lose either way.

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Cathy

Cathy Givans is a wife, a mother of five littles and a freelance writer. She nursed all five of her children and is an advocate for breastfeeding rights and benefits. She has made her own cloth diapers and enjoys reading to her children when she has free time. Cathy and her family are learning how to live green and changed to a vegetarian lifestyle about a year ago. They are currently working on moving into a complete vegan lifestyle.

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