General Question

elbanditoroso's avatar

How will the late-March snowfall and cold weather in the mid-Atlantic and northeast affect the wildlife population in those areas?

Asked by elbanditoroso (15479 points ) March 26th, 2014

I’m assuming that by mid-March, many wildlife species have already begun to adjust for spring – birds, deer, fox, rabbits, etc., that hunker down for the winter have probably already begun to come out.

And then they get hit with another 6–8 inches of snow and freezing temperatures.

Will this affect their fecundity and survivability this summer? Is there likely to be a long term fauna effect as a result of this week’s late-winter-like weather?

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14 Answers

CWOTUS's avatar

Not so badly, I think. This is a pretty normal event.

I’ve lived in New England for more than half my life, and I can recall a great many snowstorms even into April. The snow we get now won’t last long, and shouldn’t be a heavy cover. The Earth is moving into the part of its orbit where it seems (to us) “to tilt” towards the Sun; the days are getting longer, and it really is getting warmer again.

When we get freezing temperatures after new shoots have started out of the ground (usually in May), then we can have agricultural problems. But wildlife, including fauna and flora, generally don’t suffer greatly from snow now.

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

The adult animals will be fine. Any newborns will get trashed. Even wet conditions in the Spring are hard on the infants.

JLeslie's avatar

Practically every year it gets warm and then another cold blast hits. Everyone worries about their early blooming flowers, etc. People seem to have amnesia.

I think an especially long winter can mean some fauna might starve. Spring brings food for animals that were living partly off of the food storage in their own bodies. That’s my guess, but I am no expert on the topic.

marinelife's avatar

It is fairly average. We had a snow storm on yesterday’s date a year ago too. They will be fine. Also, temperatures are on the rise and it will melt quickly.

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

It has been a tough winter. The deer look okay, but they’re stating to eat things they normally don’t touch. They’ve nibbled on my lilacs, which they normally never touch, and they’re eating the old dead grass on my lawn. That stuff isn’t worth much nutritionally. The birds are going through the seed and suet like crazy, so I know they’re stressed. I haven’t seen much other wildlife, which is unusual for this time of the year. It’s supposed to warm up this week, so that should help.

LuckyGuy's avatar

Thousands (tens of thousands?) of ducks and other shore birds have died this year due to starvation. The Great Lakes froze and they could not get through the ice to feed. Carcasses are starting to float up on shore. It is getting ugly.

Tens of thousands of ducks in the Great Lakes are dead from starvation as the bitter cold causes 92.2% of the Great Lakes to freeze

LuckyGuy's avatar

(Too late to edit, above.)

:This is a better article in the Associated Press re. the duck starvation

gailcalled's avatar

@Adirondackwannabe : I too have between 6 and 28 deer grazing on the same old dead grass. They are there from dawn to dusk, and are almost impossible to scare away. I can get within 20 feet now in the car, while is closer than I remember, before they spook.

However, they have eaten the ends and buds of my lilacs for as long as I can remember. I used to pay a guy to fence in one big lilac every winter but decided to save the money and share. The tree is big enough to bloom at the top. The rest has a buzz cut. Ditto with a taxus yew, also behind a fence. The herd has eaten about half, the part they can reach by leaning over the fence.

Cruiser's avatar

I was told by a conservationist in our area that the snow actually helps shield/shelter the animals from the cold especially the little critters that can hunker down in a snow tunnel. She said without all the snow we had this past winter that all those sub zero days would have been devastating to the animal population in our area.

Coloma's avatar

Baby birds are most at risk, especially nestling birds without any feathering yet. Staying warm and dry while the parent birds are out hunting is critical, and few insects are hatching or moving around in bad weather so lean pickin’s.
In my zone the oak caterpillar hatch coincides perfectly with the songbird breeding population. Billions of juicy little green worms hanging from the trees, but not in the rain and snow.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Probably not at all.

Pandora's avatar

I’ve seen plenty of birds around here but I haven’t seen them start to build their nests yet. They all look plump and healthy. I don’t usually start to see them build nest until April.They may have a difficult time finding bugs to eat. We had two warm weeks in the winter and I saw a few bugs start to come out and then the cold came again, so I doubt they had time to lay eggs before it got cold again.

I’ve also haven’t seen any deer my way which is usually a good sign. When they come this far than it usually means they are having a hard time finding food in the woods.

gailcalled's avatar

My sister spotted l one crow last week with a twig in its beak. The spring bird noises are mating ones, I am sure.

@Pandora: How far north are you? I am about 42˚ 22’ N. latitude.

jerv's avatar

How would something that happens about every other year affect species that have been in that climate for millennia? I’m with @CWOTUS; it happens far too often to really be worth mentioning.

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