What Do Animals Do When It Rains?

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

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

I was curious how animals cope with summer storms, so I asked Kristen Sinclair, a Park Authority ecologist, about their habits and preferences regarding rainy weather.

Here are some common members of the Fairfax County wildlife community and their tolerance for rain.

Deer:  Deer do their business in light rain.

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

In heavy rain, deer will seek shelter.

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

Hollow tree nests provide better protection from the rain.

Some young squirrels may suffocate in open nests of leaves during a spring storm.

Adult squirrels use their tails as umbrellas and will come out in the rain.

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

Most birds have oil glands, which they use to groom themselves, so their oil-coated feathers are essentially waterproof.

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

Their feathers are not waterproof, so they usually won’t hunt in the rain.

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

The oil makes their fur waterproof just like feathers do for birds.

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

However, they make their homes over water, so major floods have the potential to destroy their lodges.

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

They build dens so that they don’t flood, which allows wild animals to take shelter in the house during a strong storm.

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

If they get wet, their body temperature can drop quickly and the 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 hot and sunny.

Insects hide under the leaves of trees to keep dry, using the leaves the way humans use umbrellas.

Pisces: Since they live exclusively in water, they are not really affected by rain, although they can be moved by the change from sunny to cloudy skies.

Fish sometimes become active and feed before a storm arrives, perhaps due to changes in atmospheric pressure, but any young gill or bass that mistakes raindrops on the surface for food learns 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 breed 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 don’t usually spend time in water will probably avoid it as much as possible.

Water wouldn’t necessarily help their scale, and in desert climates some species are known to shelter during rain in man-made structures, including people’s homes.

In the event of a strong storm, such as a hurricane, everything is covered.