Q: What impact has the harsh weather had on the wildlife?
A: The weather and what we have left of winter was surely the root of countless conversations today.
I think everyone and his dog is just about ready for it to be spring time.
Fear not, it is just around the corner.
Recently, I was asked how different wildlife species react to heavy winters like what we have experienced this year.
Like humans, the critters of the field and forest have adapted to survive the harshness of winter, although there are things you can do to help them through.
Winter feeding, planting food plots and creating cover are just a few examples of activities you can engage in to help wildlife through the winter and during the rest of the year.
Many of our wildlife species are specially adapted to harsh winter climates.
Many mammals including woodchucks, squirrels and skunks, fall into a deep sleep called torpor, similar to hibernation.
Amphibians and reptiles find solace underground or in burrows where they will stay until spring has sprung.
When the water is cold, fish slow down, not requiring as much food to stay alive.
Everything has a way of dealing with the cold.
When old man winter comes calling as he has this year, those animals that are not sleeping winter away will have a few simple requirements; food, cover and water.
Food becomes scarce when there is a foot or two of snow on the ground.
By providing a supplemental food source, you can provide valuable nutrients for a number of your favorite animals.
Cracked corn scattered or in a feeder is valuable to turkeys, squirrels and deer.
Birds feed happily at a birdfeeder filled with black sunflower seeds.
Raccoons and coyotes quickly clean up the leftovers from your latest fishing trip.
What I am getting at is you can simply toss out food that may help a few animals make it for a little while longer.
Food plots are another way of providing supplemental food for a number of wildlife species. Planting a few acres of your land in lespedeza, wheat, millet, turnips and clover will provide year-round nutrients for all the animals we like to hunt and several more we can not.
For more information of food plots and how to obtain seed from the Missouri Department of Conservation, contact Private Land Conservationist Jodi Moulder anytime during business hours at the MDC office in Camdenton.
It is a good idea to create brush piles around your home or property.
As all of us know, there is an abundance of downed limbs and trees around our homes ' put them to good use.
A brush pile provides cover for small prey species who are trying to evade predation from the air and from land.
If you collect all of the downed timber around your home and pile it along the outskirts of your place, I will almost guarantee you may see a few more rabbits and squirrels running around next year.
Water in the form of rain or snow has not been in short supply this winter but think back over the last few years.
We have been in a statewide drought for the last several years.
Though most of us are tired of the snow and ice, it is important to note we really needed a winter like this to help recharge our natural springs and aquifers.
Over the past few months, Missourians have been reminded of what winter should be like.
This year did not bring the temperate January days we have witnessed in the recent past.
At times the weather has been harsh.
We have struggled through the worst of it. The same can be said for many of our Missouri wildlife.
Harsh winters can seriously impact a population.
Many species have adapted to survive but as I have suggested there are ways you can help.
By planting food plots, creating cover and scattering supplemental food, you can provide valuable assistance to many of your favorite critters.
If you have any questions you would like to have answered please contact the Missouri Department of Conservation office in Camdenton at 573-346-2210.