Your guide to parenting in Rhode Island and southeastern Massachusetts

By Kristen Swanberg, Senior Director of Conservation, Audubon Society of Rhode Island

Animals in Snow Artwork by Mary Lamb GreeneDid you know that some animals live out the winter beneath the snow?  Scientists use the word subnivean to describe the world under the snow cover.  Snow acts as a thermal blanket, protecting animals like mice, voles, and shrews from the winter cold.  These animals build elaborate tunnels and nets under the snow.  The tunnels are like little roadways that they travel through protecting them from predators.  However, this frosty covering does not always hide them completely.  Owls, foxes, and coyotes can hear mice moving through the tunnels from above and often pounce through the snow catching an unsuspecting mouse.

Snow is very important to the survival of these small mammals.  This winter when there is a nice layer of snow on the ground, think about who may be living under it.  And in the spring as the snow starts to melt you many find many of these tunnels scattered through out a forest, field or even your own backyard.

Resources for more information:

Under the Snow by Melissa Stewart
Discover Nature in Winter by Elizabeth P. Lawlor

Situated on a 28-acre wildlife refuge in Bristol, Rhode Island, Audubon’s Environmental Education Center is open year-round and provides walking trails, nature programs, and exhibits for the whole family to discover.  For more information and a complete calendar of events, visit or call (401) 245-7500.

Artwork by Mary Lamb Greene. Provided by Audubon’s Environmental Education Center

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