Let It Snow!

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Published on: Jan. 2, 1997

Last revision: Oct. 26, 2010

Snow is great for building snowmen, sleigh riding and snowball fights. Those magical flakes have a way of bringing out the kid in all of us. But how does snow affect wildlife? Snow is great for building snowmen, sleigh riding and snowball fights. Those magical flakes have a way of bringing out the kid in all of us. But how does snow affect wildlife?

People only have to deal with snow on a part-time basis. If we get cold or wet, we can just go inside. For animals, though, snow can be friend or foe. Mice, shrews and moles burrow under the snow, using it as an insulator. Snow works like a blanket to trap warm air near the ground and to keep the cold air away.

Animal survival also depends on how deep the snow is. Large animals, such as the red fox, can move easily through a few inches of snow. However, as the snow gets deeper, the travel becomes tougher and tougher.

Deep snow is not always a curse, however. Rabbits are light enough to walk on top of the snow, bringing them closer to tasty branches and buds that were out of reach before.

Some animals change their physical appearance to prepare for winter. The long-tailed weasel changes from brown to a lighter color or even white, allowing it to hide in the snow. The grouse is an odd bird that grows warty extensions on the sides of its toes, enabling it to walk on top of the snow as if it were wearing snow shoes. Grouse also will dive into snow banks to escape the cold.

Although snow can make life difficult for predators in search of prey and cover up the food of hungry birds, the magical white stuff also keeps many animals from freezing and protects them from hungry enemies.

In fact, no snow at all can be the most dangerous of all for hibernating animals and dormant plants. So, let it snow! These glistening flakes are fun, and they help wildlife survive winter. Besides, we couldn't stop the snow from falling if we tried.

Make A Flake

You can make fancy snowflake decorations for tree or window with only scissors and paper. Real snow crystals have six sides and so will yours.

Start with a square piece of paper. Fold it in half diagonally.

Fold it in half again as shown.

Here is the tricky part. You are folding the triangle from step two into three parts. You could measure along the long edge with a ruler and divide by three to find where to mark the folds or you can eyeball it and fold a few times until you get it right.

Make sure the edges of this fold are even.

Snip off excess points at top.

Now for the fun. Cut different notches in the sides of the folded up triangle and unfold it to see your flake. Fold it back up and cut a bit more to learn how cuts in different places affect the shape. Experiment and practice and you will find it possible to make very elaborate snowflakes. Adults who are comfortable using razor knives or very sharp scissors can add fine detail. Try a variety of papers or even starched cloth.
- Dick Stauffer

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