Skip to content

Winter Wildlife

Four friends you’ll find in the Don Valley this winter
Animal tracks imprinted in the snow. Image: Mike Derblich
Top image caption: Image credit Mike Derblich ‐ Image: Mike Derblich

Published on November 29, 2016

Brrr. While some animals have disappeared into hibernation (groundhogs), dug into the mud (snapping turtles) and flown south to warmer climates (red-winged blackbird), winter remains a busy time of year for creatures that call the Don Valley home.

So who is hanging out here in the cold snow?

An eastern cottontail rabbit sitting in the snow.

Eastern Cottontail –These cute little brownish-grey bunnies can be seen any time of day, but are most active from dusk through dawn, spending most of the daylight hours under vegetative cover.

The easiest way to spot them is by the tracks left in the snow: two long marks of the hind feet ahead of two dots made by the front feet. You’ll know they were racing, possibly away from predators like coyotes, foxes, owls and hawks, if the hind feet are farther ahead of the front feet.

Chickadee sitting on a branch in winter.

Chickadee – The cheerful and little Chickadee, with its white face and black cap and bib, sticks around over the winter. You may hear them before you see them, with their “here swee-tee” song or more alarmed call of “chicka dee dee dee.” Be sure to tread lightly as it’s easy to startle these little guys. And when we say little, know that they weigh as much as about five M&Ms!

REd-tailed hawk perched in a tree. Photo taken by Mike Derblich.

Red-Tailed Hawk – It’s always an exciting moment to see the reddish tail of an adult hawk gracefully swooping over the Weston Family Quarry Garden. It’s the perfect windy perch to peer down at their prey from the ledges above.

It may seem like they’re following a noisy group of hikers but don’t worry, they aren’t interested in you. They have eyes on their lunch, which you have likely roused from its hiding spot.

Image credit Mike Derblich

White-tailed deer, female, stands in the snow against a wintry background.

White-Tailed Deer – The reddish fur of the white-tailed deer turns greyish in the winter, a great camouflage for its habitat. They generally travel in small groups, eating buds and shoots and sitting low on the edge of a main trail.

You may not see them, other than the two-toed prints on the ground. They can hear you from almost a kilometre away, and are quick to split, reaching peak speeds of almost 50km/h and covering almost 9 metres in a single leap.