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The Game of Life

Feb 20, 2017

The game of life is going on right now in your backyard. Animals are trying the beat the "Survivor" odds to outwit and outlast the hardships of winter. Although some of them might escape the cold by migrating to warmer climates or hibernating in snug burrows, others must gamble at finding food and shelter. By winter's end, the populations of most animals are at their lowest.

The "Wheel of Fortune" takes a new spin as spring approaches. It's a time for rebuilding populations. Baby animals abound in forests, fields and neighborhoods. One female rabbit, for example, can have up to five litters a year with as many as six young in each. It doesn't take a mathematician to figure out that not every rabbit can survive. In fact, only four out of ten rabbits live past the first month and only three out of ten songbirds survive the first year.

Their "Jeopardy" continues even through warm summer days when the food is plentiful. Many young animals die naturally from accidents, diseases and predators. When winter's cooler temperatures begin again, the game of life takes another spin, with a natural fall of wildlife numbers.

Survival Tools:

For animals, the right tools are needed for survival. Here are a few tools that help them survive all your round.

  • Camouflage is one of the best survival tools an animal can have. Whether an animal is hunting or hiding, survival often depends on blending in and not being seen. Bluegill have light, vertical stripes that help them blend in when they hide among pond plants. Dark coloration on the top of channel catfish helps them blend into the mud at the bottom of the pond.
  • Bobcats use their soft foot pads, dappled-colored fur and keen vision and smell to sneak up on rabbits.
  • Specialized eyes, ears, feet, teeth, beaks and whiskers are survival tools for prairie animals. Badgers use large claws for digging burrows and defending themselves. Coyotes depend on their keen sense of smell, hearing and sight to catch mice running through the tall grass. Prairie voles and plains pocket gophers have strong front paws for tunneling underground to safety and to find roots and leaves to eat.
  • Whiskers on mammals and antennae on insects are used by organisms to gather information about their environment.


Eastern Bluebird
Eastern Bluebird in Snow
An eastern bluebird eats a berry while trying to stay warm after a snowstorm.

MO DOC-2017-Feb DNN Week 4-Game of Life-MDOC1702-LF04.mp3

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Hear how birds and other backyard wildlife survive winter.

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