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Seasons of Nature: Winter

coyoteDeer RunPhenology is the study of natural events—season to season and year to year—in an effort to understand the natural cycles of ecosystems. Watching the seasonal cycles of its plants, animals, and physical systems is a fascinating way to deepen your appreciation and understanding of the diverse natural areas in the forest preserves.


•Beavers begin breeding this month.

•White-tailed deer bucks begin to lose antlers.

•Foxes breed through mid-March.

•River otter litters are born from now until mid-May


Raccoons breed through March.

•Eastern moles active in deep tunnels underground.

•Groundhogs breed through March.

•Mink begin breeding.

•White-tailed deer feed in groups this month. If snow is deep, they “yard-up” in bottomlands.

•Watch for otter slides on snow or mud along rivers.

•Salamander courtship begins in late February if temperatures are in the 30s, and ponds and streams are thawed. Salamanders are nocturnal, thus seldom seen.


•Opossums begin breeding in wooded areas along streams.

•Rabbit reproduction triggered by weather above 60 degrees; males begin fighting and chasing.

•Coyotes breed through early April; listen for howling.

•Chipmunks come out of hibernation.

•Skunks breed through to early April. Nocturnal, skunks are seldom seen.

•Flying squirrels begin breeding. Also nocturnal, flying squirrels are threatened with loss of habitat.

•Opossum young are born and climb into the female’s pouch.