Not all New Hampshire wildlife are adapted to deep snow.
As winter snow grows deeper, survival becomes more difficult for wildlife like foxes, deer and porcupines who must walk, wade or wallow rather than tunnel like weasels and red squirrels.
Calories expended to travel must be justified by food sources reached. Unlike a pet dog that may meander and loop recklessly, wild canines travel in arrow-straight lines to save energy while crossing icy lakes and following established trails maintained by frequent use. Snowshoe hares establish “rabbit runs.” Deer maintain packed winter trails that become temporary highways used other wildlife.
Flocks of turkeys which roost nightly in tall white pines have the advantage of being able to fly-in to feeding areas without the caloric expense and danger of wallowing in snow. Flocks move to barnyards, south-facing roadsides and backyard birdfeeders when snow is too deep to reach their preferred acorns and beechnuts. Flocks of 500 or more turkeys assemble at dairy farms in the Connecticut River Valley where corn stubble, waste grain and manure piles provide mid-winter foods.
Suburban homeowners provide cracked corn and other wild bird feeds to sustain turkey flocks which migrate from forests to suburbs in winter. Wild turkeys are NOT adapted to living in latitudes that experience prolonged periods of deep snow.
Snow depth is THE most important index of winter severity for many NH wildlife species – particularly those for whom New Hampshire’s latitude represents the historical northern limit of their natural range. Bobcat, deer and fox do NOT fare as well in northern forests as their longer-legged cousins: lynx, moose and coyotes which are better adapted to traveling in deep snow.
No matter what this winter brings, there will be some wildlife species better adapted to it.