Column: It's tough weather for Minnesota wildlife
It's cold out. Winter's icy grip on the northland, full on, isn't showing signs of release anytime soon.
Cracking trees deep in the forest, popping like rifle shots in the still-night air, along with the sounds of groaning and expanding ice across all of the north country's lakes, are reminders to we mortal humans that furnaces and fireplaces must not fail, and that resident fish and wildlife must call upon stored reserves and a host of other mechanisms in order to survive.
That wildlife can survive at all in such harsh conditions is testament to any living creature, be they swimming beneath sheets of ice, huddled together inside a woodpecker hole high in a maple tree at nighttime, or within the confines of a cozy burrow below the frost-line in deep states of hibernation.
Indeed, wildlife have adapted to Minnesota's extremes in ways that astonish and defy comprehension.
How is it, then, that the American black bear, an extremely active mammal throughout half of Minnesota's calendar year, becomes almost completely immobile and lethargic the other half of the year? Mother Nature, the ultimate driver, guides the bear through instinct, physiology, natural selection, and evolution.
With her guidance the species persists, survives, reproduces and continues its own existence, and that, in order to survive, eating as much throughout the season-of-plenty and living off stored fat reserves in a physiological shut-down of torpor, hibernation became the mechanism and key to survival.
Hibernation and torpor is a physiological and perhaps not completely understood marvel employed by a number of creatures in the natural world.
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