Just as humans prepare for fall by staying inside all warm and cozy, so do the animals! For many animals, this is the season of preparation for a long cold winter ahead. Studying the behavior in wildlife gives scientists an idea of how animals adapt and cope with environmental challenges. Here are a few examples of some animals who prepare for fall.
We all know in fall, birds start to gather and fly south for the winter. Birds such as the Eared Grebes gather in large numbers to eat and shed in California and the Great Salt Lake in Utah. Other birds such as Franklin's gulls stop and rest in the Great Plaines while Red Knots and other shore birds rest on various beaches. The Red Knots migrate annually from the Arctic to the Southern Hemisphere and will travel over 1,500 miles!
Bears practice hyperphagia, which is eating and drinking as much as they can to gain weight for their long winter hibernation. Grizzly bear genes actually are regulated differently during fall and winter. "Their genes are expressed in a way that reduces sensitivity to insulin, so that their blood sugar stays at a normal level and is spared for use by the brain, which needs it during the long sleep."
Ladybugs fatten up before the winter season by eating lots of soft-bodied prey. After they feast, they tend to gather in larges masses where they enter a dormant phase to wait out the long winter. The group of ladybugs usually goes unnoticed to predators but if they are threaten during this time, they release a goop that is bad tasting for these predators.
Fall means mating season for moose. From September to mid-October, males gather to seek out females, often leading into fights against each other. "A surge in testosterone causes the soft, fuzzy skin covering on moose antlers, called velvet, to shed, turning them into sharp weapons that they’ll wield in battle."