Animal Acclimatization

An early storm hammered the east front of the Beartooth Mountains a couple of days ago. After a persistent Indian summer, when temperatures remained unseasonably warm, the thermometer plummeted to the single digits within 24 hours.

For humans living in the northern Rocky Mountains, such frigid temperatures aren’t terribly unusual during the winter. People go about their business, shopping, working and exercising outdoors, even when daytime temperatures never scratch a dozen ticks above zero. However, there’s a definite period of acclimatization. When the temperature plummeted a few days ago, it seemed bitterly cold and miserable. Now it seems more normal and not nearly so uncomfortable. My body has simply adjusted to the new reality.

Out on the fields and golf course near my residence, I often observe whitetail deer going about their business as I attend to mine. Currently, these animals are at their peak condition for the year with healthy coats, robust fat reserves and relatively plenty to eat. However, the day after the storm hit, when temperatures dipped into the single digits, I observed these deer pawing for forage, backs humped, necks bent, creatures clearly suffering from the cold, a perfect picture of misery. The whitetails, it appeared, had similar perceptions to my feelings as I braved the cold in the dash from my front doorway to the car.

Yesterday, though, while out cross-country skiing, I noticed the same bunch of deer, placidly feeding and fawns frolicking in the snow though the temperatures have now dropped below zero. Like the skier watching them, the whitetails appeared much better adjusted to the new conditions. Animals, it seems, like humans, need some time to acclimate to winter.

Jack Ballard

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One Response to “Animal Acclimatization”

  1. Amanda says:

    Wow, look at the snow already! My horses are always bitter and grumpy on the first few cold days but once they adjust, the cold puts a little more life in them. They’ll frolic in the fresh fallen snow rather than stand under cover.

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