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The leaves aren’t the only thing that changes with the seasons in Connecticut, fall also brings some changes to the state’s wildlife.
Recent bear sightings have already alarmed some Connecticut residents, with a case of a bear showing up at a child’s birthday party. However, over the next few months, residents could see an increase in bear activity as bears prepare for hibernation in mid-December, according to Jenny Dixon, director of the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection.
“At the moment, [bears] try to put on a lot of weight before hibernation, so they spend a lot of time moving around and foraging for food,” Dixon said. “There is indeed an uptick in bear activity over the next few months.”
Dixon said female bears usually hibernate in December each year because they need to prepare to give birth. However, males can sometimes last longer and nap in and out depending on the weather.
The wildlife expert said it is important that residents take precautions to prevent bears from having easy access to food on their property and that they should try to scare the bears away where possible. Bears that are comfortable around humans put both them and humans at risk of injury, Dixon said.
“[Bears] like things like cupcakes because they are high in calories. If they’re rewarded but nothing scares them, they’ll think it’s okay to do it,” Dixon said. “In such cases [the bear at the birthday party] we want people to make noise and yell at that bear.”
Birds across the state will also change their behavior as the weather gets cooler. Some shorebird species along the coast began migrating south for the winter towards the end of August and early September. Other birds such as raptors, warblers, herring, herons, osprey and blue jays also migrate south in the fall.
Hummingbird migration patterns can vary depending on the availability of nectar food sources.
“As we begin to see [nectar food sources] declines, as some of the late summer and early fall flowers begin to shed their blooms, you’ll see the hummingbirds move further south,” Dixon said.
Connecticut also sees an influx of birds from the north during the fall migration season, like bald eagles, who like to take advantage of the state’s natural resources, Dixon explained. Other species such as snowy owls will also visit the state in winter.
“Connecticut is actually a winter destination for many bald eagles; I think that surprises people,” Dixon said. “A lot of birds come to our state because we have open water and they have access to water [Long Island Sound.] Our major rivers usually stay fairly open for most of the winter, giving them a really good stopping point to access food throughout the winter.”
Climate change has impacted hibernation patterns in Connecticut during the fall, causing some reptiles, like snakes, to stay active longer. Rising temperatures have also made it easier for southern bird species to survive in the state during the cooler seasons, according to Dixon. However, for other species, such as the salt marsh sparrow that nests in the state’s coastal marshes, rising sea levels may destroy their habitats.
During spring, experts have begun to see changes in the phenology (or the study of seasonal natural phenomena in flora and fauna) of migration due to climate change, e.g. B. when insects come out, when trees grow their leaves and when flowers bloom begin to bloom. Some of these events started earlier in the year before birds that rely on them for food return to Connecticut. Warmer climates have also made it easier for ticks to reproduce, which has negatively impacted moose populations in northern New England, Dixon said.
Dixon also noted that fall could be a good time to spot unique wildlife activity, such as birds congregating and chipmunks storing food.