Sunday marks the winter solstice, the day the northern hemisphere is tilted furthest from the sun. Some animals escape the danger by migrating south; others, including humans, find heated shelter. Their body temperatures, heart and breathing rates drop to almost imperceptible levels, lowering the animalsa€™ metabolic rate a€” how quickly they use energy. As autumn progresses, and as food becomes scarcer, lady beetles begin to gather in groups at the bases of trees, under bushes or in the cracks of buildings.
When the temperature careens near freezing, and wind whips snow across the landscape, how does a wild creature survive?
Every week or so, a 13-lined ground squirrel wakes up, repositions itself and possibly urinates, said Matt Andrews, a biologist at the University of Minnesota at Duluth.
The bears might sleep an hour or two longer than in summer, he said, but the two always come outdoors afterward to romp. One reason bears don't go into a deep hibernation is that females give birth during torpor and must care for their fragile cubs, which can weigh as little as 1 to 3 pounds at birth. But during a particularly harsh winter, or when food is scarce, bears can go into torpor for up to six months.
Many people associate groundhogs with hibernation, thanks to the species' most celebrated member, Punxsutawney Phil.
There might be a smidgen of truth to the folklore, said Stan Gehrt, an OSU assistant professor of wildlife ecology. True hibernators, groundhogs - also called woodchucks - are triggered by the shortening days to fatten up on clover and leafy plants.
When it comes to surviving the elements, snakes can be sociable creatures - think of the snake-pit scene in Raiders of the Lost Ark.
Ohio's black rat snake is large and dark, so it retains heat, tolerating cold better and entering hibernating later.
Bats are special among hibernators: They spend almost 90 percent of their lives in some state of dormancy. The hibernaculum temperature is critical because bats adjust their heart rates to their surroundings. A A A  Some animals escape the danger by migrating south; others, including humans, find heated shelter. A A A  As autumn progresses, and as food becomes scarcer, lady beetles begin to gather in groups at the bases of trees, under bushes or in the cracks of buildings.
A A A  When the temperature careens near freezing, and wind whips snow across the landscape, how does a wild creature survive?
A A A  Every week or so, a 13-lined ground squirrel wakes up, repositions itself and possibly urinates, said Matt Andrews, a biologist at the University of Minnesota at Duluth.


A A A  The bears might sleep an hour or two longer than in summer, he said, but the two always come outdoors afterward to romp. A A A  One reason bears don't go into a deep hibernation is that females give birth during torpor and must care for their fragile cubs, which can weigh as little as 1 to 3 pounds at birth. A A A  But during a particularly harsh winter, or when food is scarce, bears can go into torpor for up to six months.
A A A  Many people associate groundhogs with hibernation, thanks to the species' most celebrated member, Punxsutawney Phil.
A A A  There might be a smidgen of truth to the folklore, said Stan Gehrt, an OSU assistant professor of wildlife ecology. A A A  True hibernators, groundhogs - also called woodchucks - are triggered by the shortening days to fatten up on clover and leafy plants.
A A A  Like ground squirrels, groundhogs sometimes awaken, often shivering to generate body heat. A A A  When it comes to surviving the elements, snakes can be sociable creatures - think of the snake-pit scene in Raiders of the Lost Ark. A A A  Ohio's black rat snake is large and dark, so it retains heat, tolerating cold better and entering hibernating later. A A A  Bats are special among hibernators: They spend almost 90 percent of their lives in some state of dormancy.
A A A  The hibernaculum temperature is critical because bats adjust their heart rates to their surroundings. Late December days are the yeara€™s shortest in terms of daylight hours, when nature appears to be standing still.
Freezing temperatures and lack of food would kill most creatures: Exposed to extreme cold, body temperature drops, organs shut down and the heart stops. But hibernating animals survive in a kind of suspended animation: In their dens, they might appear limp or even dead.
But the majority tough out winter, huddled beneath leaves, in the crannies of trees or underground. In September, they begin building fat stores by eating fruit, said Joe Kovach, an Ohio State University entomologist. Certain varieties, such as the multicolored Asian lady beetle, crawl into attics or wall cavities.
If it goes from 70 to below freezing in a day, (the insects) are going 'aaaaah!' " he said.
The 13-lined ground squirrel, perhaps the most intense hibernator in Ohio, stays underground. A main tunnel often branches into several others, with chambers where ground squirrels can curl up.


A closer look at Brutus and Buckeye - twin Alaskan grizzlies at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium - dispels the misconception.
They use powerful claws to dig a burrow beneath a fallen tree, or they crawl into a hollow log or rock crevice. They sometimes develop a plug at the end of their intestinal tracts so they wona€™t defecate. They survive underwater because they can absorb oxygen through their cloaca, the opening where they expel waste. There, a groundhog's body temperature hovers above freezing, and its heart and breathing rates drop drastically. The males emerge first, almost never before mid-February, and it's to look for a female, not their shadow.
Although those snakes were estivating, or escaping the heat, cold-climate snakes also congregate, in winter.
Such small bodies lose a lot of heat, said Merrill Tawse, a zoologist and bat expert at the Gorman Nature Center near Mansfield. Northern long-eared, big brown, little brown and Indiana bats leave summer habitats in October to look for underground shelter. The femalea€™s body either delays fertilization, or stores away the fertilized egg, a€?putting on pausea€? the babya€™s development until spring, Tawse said.
Scientists once studied bats in their hibernacula but found fewer bats each time they entered.
They sometimes develop a plug at the end of their intestinal tracts so they wona€™t defecate.A  They also can recycle their urine, breaking it down to make proteins that help maintain muscles and organs. Even with temperatures in the 20s and snow falling, the 950-pound brothers still wrestle one another, jostling for a bone in their outdoor enclosure.
In torpor, a bear's temperature can drop from 100 to 88 degrees Fahrenheit, and their heart rate and breathing slow. During Ohio's frigid winters, red-eared sliders and map turtles must seek refuge, so they bury themselves in the mud beneath ponds and rivers.
2, cameras train their lenses on Phil's burrow (really a zoo habitat) to see whether he will emerge and be frightened by his shadow.
When it emerges in spring, a bear can be hundreds of pounds thinner, so it immediately begins searching for food. If he goes back into his hole, tradition says, we're in for six more weeks of winter weather.



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