As winter arrives and the temperatures drop, you may be concerned about how your local wildlife will survive the harsh conditions in the Jackson Hole Valley. Do not be alarmed, the animals that do not migrate out of the valley for the winter are well adapted to survive in the cold, snow, and wind. Sometimes people take actions to try to help these animals during the winter, however, more often than not it is more harmful than helpful. Actions such as leaving food for animals can lead to an increase of these animals in urban, human inhabited areas. This increases the chance of wildlife being struck by vehicles, fly into windows, and being habituated, or learn to depend on humans for food. The best way to help wildlife during the winter is to lower your carbon footprint which can help decrease extreme weather. Eating less meat, carpooling, recycling, reducing waste, and using renewable energy sources are a few ways to decrease your carbon footprint!
Raptors have several adaptations and methods to survive harsh conditions! Some species migrate to warmer locations during the winter, such as the Swainson’s Hawk which migrates all the way to Argentina! Not all raptors that migrate go as far as the southern hemisphere. American Kestrels leave the valley but can be found in Idaho Falls and southern Idaho during the winter. Other raptor species, such as Golden Eagles, depend on carcasses to provide enough food. Owls have a unique adaptation of having feathers all the way down to their talons which provides extra insulation against the cold. Smaller species of owls, such as Northern Saw-whet Owls, hunker down in small cavities in trees. All raptors have excellent insulation from their feathers and shiver to stay warm.
Fun Fact: Swainson’s Hawks migrate over 7,000 miles every single year!