The spring is mating time for most temperate forest animals. The forest is cluttered with the sounds of mating calls from frogs, songbirds, and many other animals. Spring peppers, which are tiny frogs usually less than an inch (2.5 centimeters) long, are the first to call for their mates in the early spring. Soon after the spring peppers come out, many songbirds return to the temperate forest from their southern winter home. Male songbirds sing sensuous songs to attract females. As soon as the animals mate, the calls of attraction are quieted. New mothers and fathers need to focus on their new family. The only sounds heard in the temperate forest after mating season is the occasional woodpecker pecking and chatter of insects.
Considering that summer marks the end of the spring mating season the forest becomes relatively silent. Despite this silence, the forest is still very active and full of life. Nocturnal animals, such as raccoons, flying squirrels, bats, and opossums, sleep in the trees during the day and have a full and active life at night. They wake up to forage or hunt for food. Other animals, like deer and black bears, are drowsy during the hot summer days and become more active during the cool nights. It is easy for predators and prey to hide from each other under the darkness of night. Animals that live during the day have to be trickier to hide themselves. Some animals live in burrows, trees, or the forest floor. Living in burrows is a safe refuge for small animals that need to hide from bigger animals. Many animals also have camouflaged fur, plumage, or skin. Spring peppers, which usually reside near muddy banks or up in trees, have brown and black stripped skin. This allows them to blend into their environment. Some animals build their homes in the trees so that predators cannot reach or see them. This strategy is usually used by birds who live and raise their young in nests. When the chicks are ready to live on their own, the nest in abandoned. Baby animals mature during the summer so they can ready themselves for the fall mating season. Male deer grow large antlers for fall mating rituals. Males fight against each other by locking antlers in front of females. The male who is dominant wins the right to mate with the females in the herd.
The animals use most of the fall to prepare for the merciless winter season. The animals that leave during the winter, including songbirds and some butterflies, migrate south for a warmer and sunnier winter. These animals sometimes travel thousands of miles to reach their destination. Some animals that do stay in the temperate forest avoid the winter by hibernating, or sleeping. All of these animals prepare for hibernation by eating large amounts of food during the summer and fall seasons. They gain enough fat so that they can survive hibernating during the winter and not be emaciated when they wake up. Animals, like ground squirrels, marmots, ground hogs, and other small mammals, make underground burrows and hibernate until the spring or warmer weather arrives. When these animals hibernate their body temperatures can drop near freezing. Their hearts also slow so much that they are barely alive. Black bears also avoid the winter by sleeping in their dens. They go into a deep sleep and only wake up several times during the winter to leave their dens.
Other animals stay active during the winter. Many animals coats change color from brown to white in the fall. An example of this is the coat transition of a snowshoe hare. In the fall its mousy brown fur begins to grow patches of white so that it can blend with the spots of snow that might be on the ground. As winter nears, the snowshoe hares coat gets thicker and whiter. Fur also grows on its feet to keep it mobile and warm on the snow.
Other animals, like beavers and squirrels, make burrows scattered throughout the forest. During the summer and fall seasons they collect berries, fruit, twigs, nuts, and bark to fill their burrows. Later in the winter, when their food supply is dwindling, they will go back to these burrows and find plenty of food stored for the winter.
Although many animals seek refuge from the cold winter and are not very active, the temperate forest is still busy with activity. Deer are often seen searching for food under the snow. They dig with their sharp hooves and feed on shoots of green plants under the snow. During the winter the great horned owl builds a nest and lays its eggs in late January. The snowy winter does not seem to affect the great horned owl.