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<p class=A study notes that the phase shift between snowmelt and snowshoe hare coat would cause a reduction of 7 % to 10% of his weekly survival.

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While Bas-Saint -Laurent broke a heat record for February 28, Wednesday, the light snow cover on the ground melted quickly. However, certain species are dependent on it for their survival. “It raises a lot of questions about the white season,” says wildlife photographer Jean-Christophe Lemay.

Since the start of winter, the Rimouski photographer, who was named wildlife photographer of the year in 2023, has not had to put on his snowshoes once to circulate in a forest sector which he likes. This is the first time this has happened to him since he frequented this sector of the Rimousk forest.

The snow cover in the forest is low for the month of February, he says. The snowpack also arrived very late.

Mr. Lemay recalls that the snow completely disappeared from the ground last December. However, the snowshoe hare and the ermine had already molted to take on their white coats.

He then captured photos of the two mammals clearly visible in their habitat. The photos are striking and also alarming when we imagine that the next winters could be worse than this one, worries the photographer.

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Last December, snowshoe hares that already had their winter coats were more visible when the snow cover melted.

Last December, snowshoe hares that already had their winter coats were more visible when the snow cover melted.

Photo album: Snowshoe hares and ermines molt in winter. x27;winter, making them visible when the snow cover recedes in the middle of winter.

In the absence of snow, these mammals become more easily spotted. The hare is less likely to camouflage itself from its predators and the ermine loses the element of surprise in the eyes of its prey, explains the biologist and full professor of animal ecology at the University of Quebec in Rimouski, Martin-Hugues St-Laurent.

A study published in 2021 also notes that the phase shift between the melting snow and the coat of the mountain hare #x27;America would cause a 7% to 10% decrease in its weekly survival.

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For example, if a forest has 100 hares, seven individuals would have disappeared by the end of the week due to their poor camouflage.

The moulting of these species is notably controlled by the photoperiod, i.e. exposure to daylight, elaborates the researcher.

The presence of snow or temperature can accelerate or reduce molting, but these factors cannot induce it. Day length remains the most important factor.

It is possible that the snow melts earlier than the photoperiod trigger '&# x27;usual'', ensuring that the animal remains white without cover of snow, indicates Mr. St-Laurent.

Quebec biologists are increasingly questioning the consequences of climate change on the behavior of wild animals.

The black bear is from #x27;elsewhere under their magnifying glass, according to Martin-Hugues St-Laurent. While the bear winters, significant periods of mild winter weather can modify its date of entry and exit from the den, believes the professor.

Bears that have fewer body reserves or are more exposed during snowmelt will emerge from the den sooner. It's sometimes surprising to see that these animals endure bad weather when the snow cover disappears, he emphasizes in an interview with Info-réveil.

What is the ;impact of mild weather in February for wildlife?.BROADCAST HERE FIRST.Info-réveil.

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Listen to the audio (What is the impact of mild weather in February for wildlife?. 9 minutes 16 seconds)

According to him, the consequences on the health of the black bear vary depending on the availability of vegetation or animal prey.

Imagine that you you've had a very long night's sleep, you get up, you're hungry and you're looking for something to eat. Then there is nothing because the vegetation has not grown yet. We will have to find animal prey, […] but if we get up a month in advance, it can be difficult, he illustrates.

However, if snowmelt is accompanied by rapid warming, buds and vegetation are more likely to emerge and to offer food to black bears.

That remains a question which fascinates biologists.

A quote from Martin-Hugues St-Laurent, biologist and full professor of animal ecology at UQAR

During a very cold winter snow, white-tailed deer, moose or even forest or mountain caribou may have difficulty moving in the forest, thus eating into their energy reserves. Very cold winters can also harm them.

[Without snow], deer can go anywhere. But if they can go everywhere, the coyote also has an increased efficiency in hunting white-tailed deer because it also benefits from the low snow cover, recalls the biologist.

Conversely, in caribou, a milder winter can ensure that females are in better conditions and that they will complete their gestation in better conditions and have a best milk in spring, describes Martin-Hugues St-Laurent.

Increased winter temperatures in the region could cause a species to move or avoid areas over time.

< p class="StyledBodyHtmlParagraph-sc-48221190-4 hnvfyV">There could be local extinctions, says the UQAR biologist. A species that needs cold weather, as it gets warmer here, could become extinct from the region, but be found further north within 5, 10, 20 decades.

He ensures that researchers are working to understand the ability of animal species to adapt. But we wonder if the changes will happen so quickly that none of these species will be able to adapt, adds Martin-Hugues St-Laurent. It is not impossible that human pressures combined with climate changes cause problems which perhaps lead to the disappearance of certain species.

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