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Science for Kids: How Animals Survive the Winter

Updated on May 6, 2013

In many parts of the world, winter brings frigid temperatures. Snow often covers the ground and bushes. Flowers, berries and acorns provide food for many animals. But they don't grow during the winter months. So, animals can't find much food to eat.

In spring, everything comes back to life. Flowers grow. Leaves and berries grow on trees. There is plenty of grass to eat. Animals have plenty of food. However, when winter comes around again, they are confronted with a lack of food.

So, how do animals survive the long cold, harsh winter months? Different animals have different methods of survival. They are hibernation, migration, gather and store, and foraging.

Black bears hibernate during the winter
Black bears hibernate during the winter


Animals that hibernate eat lots of food before the winter months. Some build up large stores of fat in their bodies. Then they sleep during the winter months. Their bodies use the stored fat to survive. Some types of bears, bats and snakes hibernate. Bumblebees die off during the winter but the queen hibernates and then gives birth to new bees in the spring.

Monarch Butterflies migrate to survive winter
Monarch Butterflies migrate to survive winter


Many parts of the world don't have harsh winters. There are places where it never snows. Areas in the tropics always have mild climate. The tropics are areas closer to the equator. Many animals leave cold areas as winter approaches and move toward warmer areas. This is called migration. Then they return home in the spring. Monarch Butterflies are migrating animals. They migrate from cold Canada to warmer Mexico to surive the winter. Canada Geese migrate from Canada, Alaska and some other northern states to states further south like California and Georgia. Some will even fly to Mexico.

Squirrels gather food and store it for the winter
Squirrels gather food and store it for the winter

Gather and Store

Some animals gather up large amounts of food and then store it somewhere safe. Squirrels are a good example. They gather acorns, which grow on oak trees. They hide the acorns for use during the winter. These animals often sleep through much of the winter but they wake up regularly to eat.

Caribou forage for food in winter
Caribou forage for food in winter


Some animals survive by foraging. This means they search for whatever food is available. They may survive on grass, leaves or lichens or any other plants that can survive during the winter. Caribou or reindeer are an example of foraging animals that live in the northern regions of North America, Europe, Asia, and Greenland. They largely survive on lichen during the winter. Lichens are organisms that can live in extreme environments, such as arctic areas. They can grow on soil, wood, rocks, and tree bark.

Animal Survival in Winter Video


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