Do raccoons hibernate and other cold weather musings
2015 has arrived and with it so has sub-zero temperatures. One morning this week I rolled out of my nice warm bed and checked the thermometer. Much to my disappointment it read –12 degrees! We had become accustomed to the rather mild temperatures that we have been experiencing thus far this winter. We were really not prepared for that extremely cold temperature, although by now those of us who have called northern Wisconsin home for a while should be ready for the cold.
After some complaints that are not to be repeated, I heated some water for tea in the microwave oven. While the water heated I dug out some warm clothes preparing to head outside. As I walked through the house I heard a strange sound coming from the kitchen. It was the noise that we hear when the water in the pipes from our well has frozen.
Not what one wants to hear when it is –12 degrees outside!
This has happened before but not usually this early in the year. One would think that after this many years of living in our house we would remember to plug in the heat tape when the overnight weather forecast predicts extremely low temperatures.
Heat tapes were plugged in and we hoped they would thaw the main water supply to the house. Even though the “Osseo Jinx” was planning on coming for the weekend the heat tapes did the job.
The headline, “Experts Say Great Lakes Wolves Aren’t Endangered,” caught my attention last week. These experts disputed that gray wolves in the states of Minnesota, Michigan and Wisconsin are endangered. Each of these states has agencies, such as the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) that manage the population of wolves. A Federal Judge has ruled that the wolves are endangered and therefore in each of these three states the gray wolf is on the endangered list again. It is doubtful that this Judge has firsthand knowledge of the situation in each of these states. The recently completed wolf-hunting season illustrates how quickly the conservative limit on wolves was reached and that the population of wolves in Wisconsin is healthy.
The Federal Government has interfered with states’ rights to manage the wolves numerous times. There is a great deal of controversy about management of gray wolves across the country. This issue if far from over and it will continue to be an extremely emotional issue.
One recent evening we heard noise out on the deck of our house that is eight feet above the ground. We turned on the spotlight that is focused on the rather large bird feeder. Much to our surprise there were three large raccoons feasting on sunflower seeds. When the light went on they gave that “deer in the headlights” look and all three tried to get down off the deck at the same time. As far as we know they have not returned.
Our discussion that evening turned to the question, “Do raccoons hibernate?” We turned to the internet for some information and found that some do and some don’t and they really don’t hibernate in the same way that we think of other animals hibernating. It seems that they may sleep for long periods of time depending on a variety of conditions. Cold weather of course will send them into a den that may be in a hollow tree or under a building. In warm climates they may sleep for short periods of time or not at all. If the temperature is below 25 degrees they most likely will not even leave the den, which unlike other hibernating animals, they share with other raccoons. Their activities pick up during January and February, which is their mating time.
The lights on our deck get turned on more frequently these days. Although we say that we have a large bird feeder it has become a bird/squirrel feeder. It is really enjoyable to watch both as they frequent the feeder.
We are planning to spend some time on the ice soon watching tip-ups and jigging for crappies. As usual when the “Jinx” heads to Rhinelander in the winter we can expect very cold temperatures.
Congratulations to two local young writers who are winners in the Youth Writing Contest sponsored by the “Wisconsin Outdoor News” publication. In the junior prose category Brooke Brewer, 13, of Rhinelander took first place and in the junior poetry category first place went to Charlie Zimmerman, 14, of Rhinelander. The teachers from James Williams Middle School who encouraged their students to participate in this contest are Alexis Koshollek, Lisa Swaney and Jeff Skubal.
Longtime Northwoods outdoor enthusiast Roger Sabota writes a bi-monthly column for the Star Journal.