Winter means cold temps and bundling up to stay warm. Huddled by your heater wearing 2 sweaters, have you ever wondered how animals survive outside in 0° temperatures? We put together a shortlist of 10 animals that not only survive the cold weather, but thrive in it!
1. Polar Bears
Native to Arctic regions of Russia, Canada, Alaska, Norway, and Greenland, polar bears love the cold! These large fluffy animals have not one, but TWO thick layers of fur plus a layer of blubber under their skin. These extra layers keep them warm in the some of the coldest places on earth. Did you know that their bottom paws also are covered in fur? It helps them move around on the ice!
2. Musk Oxen
Photo by Discover Wildlife
Able to withstand frigid Arctic winters, these handsome fellas have an outer coat over a second undercoat! Seen in far north areas of Canada and Greenland, they feed on roots and mosses of the frozen tundra. They're equipped with super-sharp hooves that can dig through snow and even ice to search for food, and have long, curved horns as a defense against predators. Musk oxen also use the tried-and-true method of huddling closely with their friends and family to stay warm.
3. Arctic Hare
IMHO one of the cutest bunnies in the world, the Arctic hare can adjust to the harshest weather conditions. Its fluffy white coat thrives in the Arctic tundra, but also helps it preserve heat to keep warm through the entire winter! But, during the extreme cold temps, the hare will dig holes in the ground to hide in.
4. Snow Leopard
Snow Leopards are large, heavy, and have thick gray and yellow spots on their body. In the cold winter months, these strong, powerful animals come down to just below the timberline forests to hunt. They usually prey on ibex and bharal. Their thick fur coats and extremely long tails are dense with fur that provides plenty of warmth to these winter hunters.
5. Snowy Owl
The one and only Snowy Owl is known for its ability to survive frigid temps in wide open areas. In the colder months, these owls perch on branches and stake out bare, open lands. These majestic predators enjoy catching and munching on small species like lemmings, rabbits, fish, spiders, snails, crabs, earthworms, and even other birds!
6. Arctic Wolf
Another popular winter animal, the polar wolf is also known as the white wolf... for obvious reason. As cold temperatures approach, their furry outer coat gets even thicker to act as a barrier against chilly winds and harsh winter rain. Unfortunately, these beautiful Arctic wolves are on the verge of extinction! There are only 200 of them left in the world.
7. Gentoo Penguins
Gentoo Penguins are found in South Georgia, the Antarctic Peninsula, and the Falkland Islands, among other cold areas. Although this penguin species does thrive in colder areas, they travel to warmer (or at least ice and snow-free lands) to breed and raise their young.
Did you know that caribou and reindeer are the same animal? Obviously, Rudolph and his fellow reindeer love the cold! These beautiful animals live in the Arctic, subarctic, and mountain regions in North America, Europe, and Siberia. Their large hooves help them grip the ground to travel over the ice and dig through the snow. They also have not one, but two thick and furry coats. One is the undercoat and the other is made of long, hollow hairs to trap in warmth.
These giant fanged beasts live in both the Pacific and Atlantic oceans. Walruses' thick, plump fat layer allows them to survive freezing temperatures and dips in icy-cold waters. The large mammals like to spend most of their time in the water, which happens to be where they lose most of their body heat. Walruses use their long tusks to make holes in the ice and aid in climbing and crawling up on top of the ice as well!
10. Harp Seal
Harp seals are native to the northern parts of the Arctic and Atlantic Oceans. Did you know they are also known by several other names, including saddleback seals, Greenland seals, earless seals, and true seals? These cute winter animals truly thrive in the winter. And when it gets just too cold for comfort? They build caves in the snow!