Animal winter camouflage

The Iowa world is white in winter, so it makes sense that animals would want to blend in with their seasonal surroundings.

Some animals have natural coloring that allows them to hide well in winter, whereas some animals change their colors to keep hidden from predators.


Jackrabbits used to be common in the tallgrass prairie of Iowa, but as the habitat has dwindled to less than 0.1 percent, jackrabbit populations have also dwindled.

Jackrabbits are great at hiding in the winter, though. Their typical summer fur is brownish-gray, with a white tail. As winter approaches, they shed their summer fur for a more insulated white coat that helps keep them warm and blend in. In the winter, their only coloring is black tips on their ears and a light gray on their ears and back.

Least weasel

The least weasel is one of three weasels you can see in Iowa --- the others being the short-tailed weasel or ermine and the mink.

The least weasel has a summer coat of reddish brown with white underparts, but it changes to all white in the winter.


The relative of the least weasel, the ermine also changes color in the winter. It goes from a brown summer coat to a white winter coat, but can be easily told apart from the least weasel because the ermine has a black tip on its tail.

ermine with a winter coat

American goldfinch

Some animals become more muted in the winter instead of completely changing to a white coat. For instance, bright birds such as the yellow American goldfinch change from their breeding colors to a more muted tone in the wintertime to help them blend into their surroundings more. As spring and breeding approach, they again resume their bright colors.

Trumpeter swans

North America's largest waterfowl has built-in winter camouflage. Its bright white feathers definitely help them hide from predators as they overwinter.

Mink, ermine or weasel? We can help you tell the difference

Although creatures in the weasel family are often just called weasels, they are actually split up into a variety of species. You might be seeing an ermine, otherwise known as a stoat or short-tailed weasel, (Mustela erminea), the least weasel (Mustela nivalis) or a mink (Mustela vison). If you see one, though, how do you Read More »

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After European settlement, osprey were extirpated in Iowa. Many of the wetlands were drained and water quality lowered as the landscape changed, and these fishing birds of prey sought homes in other areas. However, in the early 2000s, after years of concentrated efforts to improve water quality in the Iowa Great Lakes area, osprey returned Read More »

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Feeding the Kenue Park trumpeter swans

Check out the trumpeter swans on the wetland year-round with our live web camera. Click here. You can also find more videos on our Videos page or watch what Teddy the turtle eats here.

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