The groundhog gets a lot of press this time of year for its dedication to spending winter underground, but take a trip to your local DuPage forest preserve and you’ll find it’s business as usual for other wild animals.
Squirrels hole up in their dreys on the coldest days, but lines of tracks between the trees expose their persistent need to find nuts and seeds stashed in the fall. Voles and mice dig tunnels in the snow connecting their burrows with caches of food while coyotes and red-tailed hawks wait for subtle signs of movement from this small furry prey. Leafless woodlands make it easier to spot great horned owls, which are already nesting in January, but for the epitome of a cold-weather frenzy you need look no further than the nearest flock of black-capped chickadees.
With so many native wild animals on the go, we humans do not really have an excuse to be indoors, especially when DuPage forest preserves offer so many options. For starters, catch wildlife action firsthand along 166 miles of forest preserve trails. Bring your cross-country skis (rangers groom over 70 miles as conditions allow), or rent a pair of snowshoes at three different forest preserve sites. See how people made due in the 1890s (and take home a greater appreciation of modern conveniences) at “Farm Life in Winter” January and February at Kline Creek Farm, or find your favorite new outdoor activity at Wonders of Winter Feb. 1 at Mayslake. At this annual open house you can try ice fishing, snowshoeing, geocaching and more and then head inside historic Mayslake Hall to warm up and speak with forest preserve experts.
Let’s all resolve to say “no excuses” in 2020 and to make the most of wintertime DuPage forest preserve fun!