Mrs. Dennison's Second Grade Class
Flower Mound Elementary School
Flower Mound, Texas

Alaska Animals-Where Do They Go At 40 Below

We read Alaska Animals – Where Do They Go At 40 Below? by Bernd and Susan Richter. Mrs. Dennison met the authors while in Alaska and it also coordinates with our current animal unit. After reading it together, everyone created their own Kidspiration file to divide the Alaska animals into groups: migrate, stay, and hibernate. Then we read on the Internet about animals that live in the Texas desert regions. We compared cold climate and hot climate adaptations.

Texas Animals – Where Do They Go At 120 Above?

Alaska Animals – Where Do They Go At 40 Below?
 By Bernd and Susan Richter

Some animals in west Texas live in the desert. They have some very difficult conditions to deal with - not much water and high temperatures. Some desert animals can actually go through life without ever taking a drink of water. Desert animals have some very important adaptations that enable them to live in the desert. Alaska is known as the land of snow, ice, and long, cold winters. At such extreme temperatures, exposed skin, especially on ears, noses, and fingers, can freeze within minutes. Alaska’s wild animals don’t have heated houses. They also have important adaptations that enable them to survive the cold temperatures.

Food – Water From Food - Some desert animals, such as pack rats can get all of the water that they need by eating juicy cactuses and other plants that have lots of water in them. Some snakes can get all of the moisture that they need from the mice and other small animals that they eat.
 Food - Change of Diet –
Some animals like the moose simply change what they eat. In the winter they eat twigs of bushes and bark of trees that aren’t covered by the snow. In the summer they eat fresh leaves

Move to Water -
Large desert animals, such as mountain lions or deer, can get some of the water that they need from the food they eat. In order to get all of their needed water, these animals must also drink water, too. To find sources of water, these larger desert animals may have to travel great distances.
Migrate to Warmer Climate – Canada geese in Alaska may fly up to 5,000 miles south. Most whales swim far away from Alaska to the south where waters are much warmer. Before the water freezes fish swim away from the shallow creeks and rivers to deep river sections that don’t freeze all the way to the bottom. Some actually swim all the way to the ocean.

Estivate -
Some desert animals deal with the hot, dry times (droughts) by "sleeping" through it. They estivate through the dry periods. Spadefoot toads can wait out dry periods underground for months and even years. They are covered with a jellylike substance that keeps them moist while they are waiting for rain. Some desert rodents, snails and spiders "sleep" through the hottest, driest times of the year. By estivating, animals can avoid not only hot, dry conditions but also a food shortage.

Hibernate –
Before the winter arrives, bears find a cave called a den. Bears eat a lot in the summer and then hibernate or sleep through the winter. Other animals that hibernate are marmots, arctic ground squirrels, and chipmunks.

Staying Out Of The Sun -
Many desert animals avoid the daytime heat by being nocturnal (active at night). Some animals are active only during the early morning and late afternoon (cooler times of the day). During the heat of the day, when ground temperatures can reach 160 F., lizards, snakes, insects and other animals will get out of the heat - digging into the ground, going into other holes, crawling under rocks, looking for shade under bushes and trees, etc. Some birds, such as vultures, will fly higher into the sky, where temperatures are cooler.
Camouflage –
The ptarmigan, the Alaska state bird, turns white with the exception of its beak and eyes, which keeps it safe from predators. With the protection of two layers of feathers it is able to keep out the wind and water to help it survive the cold weather. Other animals that change their color to white are the snowshoe hare, the arctic fox, and the weasel.

Big ears and long legs -
Big ears help to cool down their owners by radiating heat out of the animal's body. Like big ears, long legs also radiate body heat. And, long legs keep vital internal organs away from the hot ground. Some insects and lizards keep their insides cooler by straightening out their legs as they walk across the hot ground. Thick Fur and Long Legs – Moose spend winters in pretty much the same areas that they spend their summers.
Their thick fur
keeps them nice and warm and their long legs allow them to walk through the snow. Caribou have a thick fur coat and for food walk to areas where the snow cover in thinnest. These are usually treeless and high-lying areas where strong winds blow fresh snow away. The caribou use their strong hooves to paw the snow away to get to edible plants.

Click here to learn more about Alaska.

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© Patricia Knox & Susan Silverman - Kidspired Frosty Tales 2003