Animals in Winter: Deer

Winter is a season of rest for a lot of Vermont’s wildlife population, but not every animal goes into hibernation for the season. Like humans, many animals see the colder months as a time to seek warmth and shelter. These animals brave the Vermont winter by preparing in advance and adapting their lifestyle. 

You have probably spotted deer in the woods or sprinting across the road during the winter months. Deer remain active all year long, but have to make adjustments in order to keep warm when cold weather hits. They move from fall habitats to wintering areas as the season changes. Wintering areas can range in size from a few acres to over a hundred and can be used for several generations as long as the habitat stays intact. If development occurs near their wintering habitat, deer will migrate elsewhere. Wintering areas have dense softwood cover, which protects the animal from wind and falling snow.

Deer wintering area. Photo courtesy of VT Fish & Wildlife
Deer sleep for only short periods of time, in order to stay guarded against predators. If they feel threatened, they let out a loud snorting sound to alert the rest of the group. In the winter, they often sleep during the day in direct sunlight to conserve energy and stay warm. During the fall they prepare for the winter by eating acorns and beechnuts. In the winter, their diet consists of foliage and branch tips from softwood trees like hemlock and cedar, found in their wintering habitat.


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