January 10: Winter Wildlife
Winter in North Dakota can be a challenge, but it can also offer great experiences and traditions. Throughout the month of January, Dakota Datebook joins the celebration of winter in conjunction with the Northern Plains National Heritage Area and Sons of Norway Sverdrup Lodge for the inaugural “Vinterfest,” a celebration of all things winter.
Fans of wildlife will find North Dakota a perfect place to spot a variety of native animals all year round. With less foliage to block the view, wintertime can provide an excellent opportunity to observe the abundance of animals. Many animals that call North Dakota home are particularly fun to see in their winter coats and feathers, and catching a glimpse of the wildlife in their winter homes and habits can be a great way to get outdoors on those clear winter days.
Many birds fly south for the winter, but there are around forty different kinds of birds that remain in the Northern States. Year-round birds include woodpeckers, nuthatches, chickadees, blue jays, and brown creepers, along with game birds like pheasants, grouse, and partridge.
You can attract birds by investing in a feeding box or pressing nuts and seeds into the bark of trees. These and similar tactics have been put to the test. In the winter of 1916, residents of Grand Forks attended a lecture entitled “Winter Birds in Grand Forks and How to Enjoy Them.” This lecture explained the value of supporting winter birds. A program associated with the lecture had children establish feeding places for birds in parks and backyards.
Other than birds, there are many furry creatures that can be seen across North Dakota. Among them are deer, antelope, fox, coyote, mink, weasels, porcupine, hares, rabbits, moles, shrews, and field mice! It is especially exciting to spot jack rabbits, snowshoe hares, and weasels, which change from summer to winter coats. Many of these creatures can be harder to spot than the birds, each having unique winter habits. Learning those habits can help locate the animals. For example, snowshoe hares are most likely spotted foraging for buds, twigs, and branches – the foods that make up their winter diet. Most reported observations of these furry creatures have been in heavy timber and woodland with shrubby cover.
Even in the cold days of North Dakota winters, animal lovers can get outside to enjoy spotting the fascinating wildlife. More information on their winter habits can be accessed in the State Historical Society’s library collection.
Dakota Datebook by Ashley Thronson
- Robert W. Seabloom, The Mammals of North Dakota
- Wilford L. Miller, Wildlife in North Dakota
- Wm. T. Cox and Dietrich Lange, Bird Stories
- Grand Forks Herald. [volume], November 25, 1916, Image 10