ParkTalk Podcast

S26 Episode 03: Winter Wildlife

Nature Center Manager Angelique Harshman gives insight into the needs and habits of common animals and birds that overwinter in northern Illinois, where to see them, bird feeding tips, and how to look for animal tracks in the snow.

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Quotes from the episode:

“Snow for wildlife provides an insulating blanket on the ground. So for anything under the ground, the temperature stays the same, and (the ground) doesn't freeze. That helps a lot of smaller critters like voles and mice.” – Angelique Harshman

“This is a great time of year, especially if you get a dusting of snow the night before, to go out the next day and look for evidence that nocturnal animals have been there by looking for their footprints in the snow. Fox tracks can look like a small dog, but they tend to walk almost in a straight line, whereas dogs tend run all over the place.  You can tell which direction they went in and maybe what happened. For example, if you come across some rabbit tracks and coyote tracks, and all of a sudden the rabbit tracks stop, or maybe the rabbit tracks go off in a different direction—it may have leaped away from the coyote—it's like a track story that you can interpret. Even if you don't see the animals, t's a really fun way to experience nature in winter.” – Angelique Harshman

Resources about winter wildlife from Knoch Knolls Nature Center

The December 2021 Nature Discovery Kit includes how to look for animal tracks and how to make pinecone bird feeders.

Check the Naperville Park District Program Guide for upcoming nature programs including hikes with our naturalists.

Tips for protecting winter habitat for wildlife:
  • Leave stems in your garden for the winter. Insect eggs can live in the hollow tubes, where they are protected from the cold.
  • You can feed wild birds without causing them to be dependent on you, but you don't want to feed any other type of wildlife, as it can spread disease or encourage aggressive behavior in animals.
  • Keep your pets on a leash when you are in the park so that they don't invade the wild animals' space
  • Leave a brush pile in your yard and that becomes a windbreak, a shelter for rabbits
  • Rake leaves into your garden to provide habitat for salamanders, insects and other small creatures.
Examples of animals and animal tracks found in our area:

Buck crossing the DuPage River Trail at Knoch Knolls Park

Three does

Great Horned Owl in Knoch Knolls neighborhood

Young opposum

Animal Tracks

Deer tracks

Racoon footprints

Squirrel tracks