Connecticut’s unseasonably warm winter is shaking up routines for some wildlife
The unseasonably warm winter is changing wildlife habits and befouling normal migrations in Connecticut.
With little snowfall in the state so far this year, animals don’t have to shuffle through snow to hunt for buried food. But that lack of snow also means small animals can’t use the snow to hide from predators.
Jenny Dickson, director of the state’s wildlife division, said warm winters could also have long-term impacts on hibernating species.
“If they wake up and it’s already been warm for a while, and they missed those prey items that might have been available when they first normally would wake up, what does that do?” Dickson said. “How does that change their ability to find food once they do wake up?”
Dickson said the warm weather has less of an impact on bears, whose hibernation is tied more to “denning” behavior than to weather patterns.
But for birds, some northern species have left the state to seek colder areas, Dickson said. Birds like waterfowl and bald eagles have been seen in Connecticut longer than expected because bodies of water aren’t frozen and continue to provide a source of food.
“Some of the things that we’re seeing play out already is that a lot of species that have more of a southern range are now able to move into Connecticut and survive a lot longer,” Dickson said. “They don’t have to shift back down.”
Connecticut, and every other New England state, experienced its warmest January on record last month, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.