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Winter is hard on us all

March 23, 2014
Cole Anderson - Grundy County Conservation Naturalist/Conservation Tech , Reinbeck Courier

There is no denying that this winter has been one of the worst that anyone can remember. From the record snow fall in some areas to the frigid temperatures that never seemed to go away, this winter was definitely a hard one. My biggest concern this winter was my LP tank running empty and having to buy five dollar gas. Other people's big concerns were their water lines freezing and having to borrow water from their neighbors. Not to mention the thousands upon thousands of gallons of water wasted due to people having to leave their water running 24/7 to keep not only their water lines but also their sewer lines from freezing.

Yes, indeed, these winter months have been hard on our wallets and our frame of mind as well. But as hard as it's been, most of us still come home to a warm house, a hot meal and a warm bed. Imagine being an animal this winter, having to face below zero temperatures day after day and your only access to food keeps getting buried by more and more snow. We think we've had it bad. Imagine having to fight every day, just to survive.

The winter months are some the best months to observe wildlife. There are no corn fields to hide in and all the leaves are gone from the trees so the woods seem to open their doors and every critter that dares to show its face sticks out like a sore thumb against a white blanket of snow. I observed many animals this winter and watched as they fought their way through an extremely hard winter.

Around February a herd of deer that had been scrounging for scrap corn in the fields all winter had finally had enough, there was too much snow and not enough to eat. So they went against every instinct in them since birth and ventured far from the woods directly into a cattle farm to eat from a silage bin. The bin wasn't even 80 yards from the house and not 100 yards from the road. They did what they had to do to survive.

Like many people I also watched the pheasants. Due to a huge lack of habitat and a string of bad weather events, pheasants are few and far between. And this winter won't help their cause. They were easy to spot because they spent literally all day in the fields desperately scratching for food that was unfortunately buried under a lot of snow. The snow also makes them very easy targets for predators. I wouldn't be expecting a boost in pheasant numbers this year. Squirrels are a very skittish animal that rarely leave the safety of the trees. This year I saw squirrels 100 yards out in the fields digging for food. That's very dangerous for a squirrel. It leaves them unprotected and a very easy target for hawks and other predators looking for an easy meal. Animals only put themselves in that kind of danger if they're desperate.

We all had it tough this winter, but next time you're whining about the cold and snow, just think, you could be living outside digging in the snow for your next meal. Maybe that walk from your warm house to your warm car isn't so bad. Remember to think positive. Spring is just around the corner. Soon the snow will all be gone, the grass will be turning green and this winter will be nothing but a memory.



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