Weathering the Winter Wonderland!

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A wonderful winter wonderland scene west of Bonners Ferry on the Kootenai River where it navigates around Ambush Rock. Photo by Don Bartling

Now that Christmas is over and winter has set in, many may want to spend the rest of the season inside their house in front of a warm fire. Curling up in a warm den, as much of our local wildlife do, I think that might even sound like a good idea.

I look outside and see the warm colors of autumn have been replaced with browns, grays and whites of the winter landscape. Evergreens, out-dressed most of the year by more flamboyant trees, stand out. The skies are quieter. The migrating waterfowl and songbirds have pretty much reached their wintering grounds.

Trees in winter no longer hide wildlife from our view. A pair of bald eagles, perched on a bare branch, are easily spotted on the banks of the Kootenai River west of Bonners Ferry.

Quiet and still as the winter months may be, wildlife still abounds. Anyone with a passion for feeding birds is treated to a daily performance as sparrows, chickadees, finches, nuthatches, woodpeckers, ravens and Steller’s jays vie for space at a feeding station. Squirrels busily search for their buried stash or, if unsuccessful, raid the bird feeders.

In winter most of the more familiar mammals in Boundary County do not actually hibernate. Deer, mice, wolves, foxes, squirrels snowshoe hares and rabbits are active throughout winter. Only bears truly hibernate. Others, like the raccoon and skunk, go into a semi-hibernating stage. They may sleep for days or weeks at a time, then emerge for food or during an unusually warm winter day.

One may not realize how much wildlife is out and about until a light snow blankets the ground. Take a walk immediately after the snowfall. Look down for telltale tracks in the snow.

Begin by looking at familiar tracks. A dog’s track is different from a cat’s in that the dog’s prints show claws while the cat’s do not because of its retractable claws.

So when the winter blues bring you down and cabin fever abounds, look to the outdoors for a new experience to help you weather the winter wonderland in Boundary County.

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