It feels like we are about halfway through our Alberta winter, a January thaw has given us a break from cold and snow and Canada’s weather predicting mammals are conflicted as to whether we will see an early spring or not. We’ve talked about who is sleeping and where, but when will our hibernators come out again? Do they all wake up at once? What do they typically do when they wake up – besides stretch?
- Male bears leave dens the earliest – and they are on the lookout for a good meal
- If it has been a mild winter, bears could rouse for a few days in February to look for food
- Cubs are born in the winter den, so when the female goes out for the first time with her cubs – she has been nursing her babies and not had anything to eat for months
- March is usually the beginning of the end of hibernation for grizzlies and black bears alike – by April, hibernation will have ended.
- In April bats will start stretching their wings
- Bats emerge when the weather is warming and insects are available
- Once awake, bats will make the trip back to their usual summer hangouts
- Pregnant females will head to maternity roosts where they have their pups – these roosts typically hold many females and are used for years
- Some amphibians, like the long-toed salamander, will enter ponds before all the ice is gone
- Frogs and toads can be heard calling in April, getting ready to mate
- Males and females head to breeding ponds to mate, and females lay eggs
- Some amphibians will make their homes in and around ponds during the summer while some are more terrestrial
- Reptiles will emerge from dens and sun themselves, they need to warm up before they get moving
- Reptiles will be on the lookout for small mammals to eat
- Watch for snakes on the road in the spring months – they love to sun themselves on the pavement
- The prairie rattlesnake usually gives birth within 10 kilometres of her winter den – this is still a long distance for a snake
Other small mammals (April-May)
- The first priority for any small mammal, even those that don’t hibernate, is to eat
- Small mammals are looking for new growth and have breeding on their minds
- Soon after these small mammals resurface, they start making nests to give birth in
By May, Alberta wildlife should be back in full force. Hibernators, migrators and those animals that brave the elements will all be back for wildlife watchers to see! Until then we will enjoy the wonders of our winter months and wait patiently for spring.