Winter Animals at the Parks
Did you know many animals call Northwest Indiana their home during the winter months? Although some animals migrate for warmer climates or hibernate, there are others that can adapt to stay all year round. In addition, some birds migrate to Northwest Indiana from colder places north of us.
Porter County Parks provide a variety of habitats that support these special animals. The woods, ponds, and prairies at Brincka Cross Gardens, Brookdale Park, and Sunset Hill Farm are just what these animals need to survive.
Deer can be found all year round, and they adapt to winter in several ways. They move less to conserve energy, and their fur is more like straw which helps keep their bodies insulated from the cold. Their diet in the winter consists primarily of twigs and stems of saplings and shrubs.
In the autumn, squirrels are busy gathering nuts and hiding them so that they will have food in the winter. Their fur grows thicker, and they use their tail to protect themselves from the elements. Squirrels prefer dens within healthy, living trees to constructed nests for overwintering.
Most rodents can adapt for winter by growing thicker fur and staying in burrows where it’s warmer. They will stay near food sources.
Coyotes may move from open habitats like prairies to more sheltered habitats like woodlands. Their fur grows thicker, and they are omnivores and can eat anything they can to survive. Small mammals and carrion are their principal winter food sources. Coyotes can live in small family groups or individually.
Birds that stay for the winter include sparrows, Eastern bluebirds, crows, finches, chickadees, cardinals, blue jays, hawks, and falcons. Snowy owls are known to migrate to Northwest Indiana from Canada!
Evidence of winter animals can be found by looking for their tracks in the snow. Winter is a beautiful time to get outdoors and can be more enjoyable by using your senses to find where the animals are or have been. Listen to the birds, watch the ducks and geese swimming in the ponds, look for animal tracks in the snow, and breathe in the fresh air.
Sunset Hill Farm has farmyard animals that can be seen all year round. You are invited to come see the ponies, goats, sheep, rabbits, turkeys, ducks, and chickens during daylight hours. They are located behind the red tractor barn just past the main parking lot.