“They’re tiny, they’re like little black specks – a little bit bigger than flakes of pepper,” says Natalie Cypher, educator with the Grosse Ile Nature and Land Conservancy.
“They can sometimes be seen on the surface of snow on a sunny day.”
They’re usually found around the base of trees.
True to their name they move by their tails.
“It kind of looks like that that they disappear when they spring on their tails,” she says.
“So you can kind of see that their moving.
"And if you’re not paying attention it looks like they disappearing and reappearing on the surface.”
What are they eating?
Likely bits of decomposed leaf litter.
“So you would normally only see them on a warmer winter day where there’s some snow melted around the base of the tree so there’s a little bit of food on the ground that’s available that they can get,” Cypher says.
She’s leading a tour about how animals adapt to the winter Jan. 24, 2 pm across the river at the Gibraltar Bay nature refuge.
Most insects are dormant however.
But that doesn’t mean you can’t see them.
Cypher said the tour will also look for praying mantis egg cases.
“Praying mantises will lay eggs in a frothy mass and it sticks to a twig throughout the entire winter and then will hatch in early summer,” she says.
The tour will also look for animal tracks.
Not many small varmints in these parts hibernate but one which does is the woodchuck.
Woodchucks usually feed on grass so with no food supply the only alterative is to go to sleep.
“Rather than try to stay active during the winter and struggling trying to find enough food and find the right food they’ve evolved to just say, ‘You know what, I’m going to sleep through the winter and try some more next spring,” Cypher says.
Other small animals are active such as foxes and rabbits.
But raccoons sometimes will go into dormancy for a certain period.
“Then they will come out and see when it gets warmer for awhile and then they’ll go to sleep some more for a few weeks.
“So they don’t do a full hibernation but they’re less active in the winter than they are in the summer usually.”
Rabbits might vary their diet somewhat by munching on tree bark instead of grass.
As for hawks and coyotes, dinner is the same in winter as any other time – smaller fry such as mice and indeed munching rabbits.