What Do Animals Do When It Rains?

Some, like Canada geese, don’t mind rain, while others do and have developed ways to protect themselves in storms.

You may remember our January 2016 blog, “Where Will Animals Go in the Blizzard?,” where you learned how wildlife survives heavy winter snow.

I was curious about how animals are coping with this summer’s thunderstorms, so I asked Park Authority ecologist Kristen Sinclair about their habits and preferences for rainy weather.

Here are some common members of Fairfax County’s wildlife community and their rain tolerance.

Deer:  Deer do their business in light rain.

Some deer hunters say light rain is the best time to hunt.

In heavy rain, deer will seek shelter.

Squirrels: Squirrels either have leaf nests in tree branches or, like woodpeckers, in tree hollows.

The hollow tree nests provide better protection against rain.

Some young squirrels can actually drown in open leaf nests during a spring storm.

Adult squirrels use their tails as umbrellas and go outside in the rain.

Birds: This woodpecker has made a nest in a tree, so it is safe from storms.

Most birds have oil glands that they use to groom themselves, so their oiled feathers are essentially waterproof.

Water rolls off them, well, exactly like a duck’s back.

Their feathers are not waterproof, so they usually do not hunt in the rain.

Beavers: Beavers have sebaceous glands in their skin that help them maintain their body temperature, very useful since they spend so much time in and near water.

The oil makes their fur resistant to water just like feathers do for birds.

Fur and feathers are designed to repel water, and beaver fur does just that, so the critters don’t mind the rain.

However, they live by the water, so high floods can destroy their cabin.

Raccoons, foxes, mice, rabbits and other small mammals: Mammals that live underground will hide in their burrows.

They build caves so they don’t flood, making wildlife shelters at home during heavy storms.

Bats, like this silver-haired bat, actually have fur and are mammals.

If they get wet, their body temperature can quickly drop and water affects their ability to fly.

Bats will hide under certain trees where the bark provides space and protection.

Insects: Those that fly cannot fly in the rain, especially butterflies and moths.

The best weather for butterflies, like this Great Spangled Fritillary, is warm and sunny.

Insects hide under the leaves of trees to keep them dry and use leaves like humans use umbrellas.

Fish: As they live exclusively in water, they are not really affected by rain, although they can migrate due to changes from sunny to cloudy skies.

Fish sometimes become active and feed before a storm arrives, perhaps due to atmospheric pressure changes, but any young grayling or bass that mistake raindrops on the surface for food will learn quickly.

Salamanders and Frogs: Amphibians love the rain!

Remember that amphibians spend time both in and out of water.

Salamanders, like this spotted one, migrate and nest in the rain, using small pools created in the forest by storms.

Snakes: Some snakes are adapted to water, such as water snakes and water moccasins, but those that normally spend their time in water would probably avoid it as much as possible.

Water would not necessarily help their scales, and in desert climates, some species have been known to seek shelter from the rain in man-made structures, including people’s houses.

In the event of a major storm, such as a hurricane, everything takes shelter.