Forecasting Winter by Animals

collage of photos of a family

Forecasting Winter by Animals

It will be a bad winter if:

squirrels begin gathering nuts early (middle or late September).
muskrat houses are built big.
beaver lodges have more logs.
the north side of a beaver dam is more covered with sticks than the south.
squirrels’ tails grow bushier.
fur or hair on animals such as horses, sheep, mules, cows, and dogs is thicker than usual.
the fur on the bottom of rabbits’ feet is thicker.
cows’ hooves break off earlier.
squirrels build nests low in trees.
wild hogs gather sticks, straw, and shucks to make a bed.
animals grow a short fuzzy coat under their regular one.
crows gather together.
hoot owls call late in the fall.
screech owls sound like women crying.
juncos are feeding in the trees.
birds huddle on the ground.
you hear an “old hoot owl on the mountain, winter’s comin’ soon—better put on your boots”—Kenny Runion.
birds eat up all the berries early.

—The Foxfire Book


Today’s Thankful November giveaway is a used copy of “The Foxfire Book.” To be entered in the giveaway leave a comment on this post. *Giveaway ends Monday November 11, 2019.


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  • Reply
    marshall reagan
    November 9, 2019 at 1:32 am

    I would love to have the foxfire book because all of mine burned when my house burned in10 -17-2011 . I miss them for a lot of wisdom on many different things.

  • Reply
    Kat Van Rooyen
    November 8, 2019 at 12:05 am

    I grew up in NE Kansas but always ate Southern-style food and knew these type of lore. Found out in my late 50’s or later thru Ancestry that my mom’s family ALL came from N or S Carolina. Very Appalachian, which shocked me when we moved to SW Virginia in the Appalachian Mountains and I felt I was HOME. That was 15 years ago. I’ve read your articles here as long as I can remember. We always were told the thicker the band on the wooly worm, the worse the winter. Has run true 100%.
    Appreciyyou, Tipper!

    • Reply
      Kat Van Rooyen
      November 8, 2019 at 12:06 am

      Make that Appreciate you, Tipper!

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    November 7, 2019 at 7:35 pm

    I looked out the back winder the other day and saw a deer out next to the woods in my yard. What’s the big deal you say? You saw a deer! Well I wasn’t impressed either until I saw nine more. Ten deer in my yard at one time. That’s a record! I counted twice hoping to get an even dozen. I couldn’t see if any were behind the outbuilding so I’ll stick with ten. If I was a fisherman I could have claimed it was at least fifteen.
    Missy asked me why I didn’t take a picture. I told her when I have a camera with me I never see anything worth looking at. I don’t know what all that has to do with the weather but it’s got to be something.

  • Reply
    November 7, 2019 at 6:13 pm

    If spider build webs high up, there will be deep snows… same if smoke from chimney hugs the ground instead of going and staying straight up!

  • Reply
    November 7, 2019 at 5:45 pm

    I fully believe in the watching the “signs” from the animals and such to be able to know what kinda winter we’re going to have…also counting the fogs in August to know how many snows…would love to have a copy of this one…its one i hadn’t been able to find at a yard sale

  • Reply
    November 7, 2019 at 5:33 pm

    Dad caught a wild piglet many years ago that I raised. She had several liters of pigs through the years. She would build a big pile of grass and sticks every time her liter was due. These were usually 18 – 20 inches high. Once she built one almost 3 feet high and wasn’t pregnant. Dad said a big snow was coming. We had a blizzard with more than a foot of snow and ice that stayed on the ground for almost 2 weeks. Most of our snows were in the 2 – 6 inch range.

  • Reply
    November 7, 2019 at 4:23 pm

    Also if the squirrels are gathering more food than usual—-but no idea how they compare that. Perhaps if the squirrels store it under your hood (I saw an article about that recently!).

    Stay warm this winter!

  • Reply
    Jim Kennington
    November 7, 2019 at 3:37 pm

    The Firefox books are a great source of information, especially when they’re talking about cooking and preserving vittles. Don’t do much puttin’ up anymore due to age & sometimes feeling puny. But I do love to read and reminisce.

  • Reply
    November 7, 2019 at 2:24 pm

    Born and raised in rural West Virginia. All of
    the signs posted are so true! My Grandparents’ bones aches before a storm.
    Believe the groundhog.

  • Reply
    William Dotson
    November 7, 2019 at 1:19 pm

    Would love to read that book.

  • Reply
    November 7, 2019 at 12:41 pm

    Wooly Worms are the best indicator of Winter weather. Also deer begin to change the color of their coats.

  • Reply
    Susan Jones
    November 7, 2019 at 12:11 pm

    My grandpa taught us to use the woolly worm for a winter weather indicator out here on the Tennessee River near the Kentucky line. The wider the red band around his waist, the milder the upcoming winter was going to be.
    I found a little woolly worm on my front porch last week that had gone to glory. When I picked him up to give him a final resting place by the maple tree, I saw that he didn’t even have a red band!!! He might have been too young, or he might have been telling me, “Cut some more’s going to be a rough one!”

    • Reply
      November 7, 2019 at 7:08 pm

      I live in West Chester, Pa and I saw a wooly worm on my patio this past week…it was about an inch and a half long…all black!!

  • Reply
    aw griff
    November 7, 2019 at 10:54 am

    Well, now I know why I was a false weather prophet after reading the other comments. I had the hornet nests and cool beds backards.

  • Reply
    Ken Roper
    November 7, 2019 at 10:45 am

    If you go by the Powerhouse at Nantahala and pass all the bridges, there is a gravel road off to the right, we know it as the old river road, but you can travel that road less than a Mile, cross the Nantahala by foot, and go across the Mountain, you will be in Walnut Cove. Some of the Biggest Squirrels I’ve ever seen is there. I suppose they get fat on Walnuts, but we Deer Hunted in there.

    Chinquapin road is just below there that lets you go to Piercy Creek. Loggers built it across the Nantahala a long time ago. Us Boys could go thru the Mountains and cut-off many miles by going up Powderburnt Branch, by Alex Nelson’s place. (Monte Kit’s grandpa) …Ken

  • Reply
    aw griff
    November 7, 2019 at 10:45 am

    Right off I can only think of three more. When wooly worms are mostly black and when hornets nest and cool beds (squirrel’s nest) are high in the tree. After a couple of back to back bad winters in the 70’s I tried to predict winters and became a false weather prophet. I quit! Remember when the scientist told that we were going in to an ice age? Well now some say we have global warming and others say it’s nothing but a cycle. Just the other day I read the long range forecast was an ice age. Lots of false weather prophets out there. Sounds like people control to me.

  • Reply
    Melissa P. (Misplaced Southerner)
    November 7, 2019 at 10:38 am

    I know we’re gonna get a dilly up here in Michigan. The squirrels and chipmunks have been settin’ aside stores for months. The deer are already putting on very thick coats as are all the horses out at the barn. The juncos arrived earlier than usual, and my bird feeders have been swamped. I guess they were all in the know, because we had mid-20s this morning with snow.

  • Reply
    November 7, 2019 at 10:25 am

    I believe you covered alot of them Tipper. I believe God gives us the signs if we just look, listen and learn. I would love to read the Foxfire book. Thanks a bunch Tipper. Lets pay attention to what God shows us.

  • Reply
    November 7, 2019 at 9:44 am

    I think I can smell a storm coming. The most common thing that I have noticed is the dark or white colored wooly worms. I never see those that I don’t feel they are my very own Winter prediction. My parents had a set of Foxfire books, and I never had time to read them, and later they were passed on to a grandson. I used to be more in tune with the weather before it became so easy to just check your phone

  • Reply
    November 7, 2019 at 9:09 am

    We always notice the thickness of squirrels’ tails, and how much they’re stocking up on walnuts and such during fall for the approaching winter. Crazy little thieves, but clever. We can learn if we open eyes and ears.

  • Reply
    November 7, 2019 at 9:04 am

    I mostly rely on the persimmon seed to predict the winter. This year, every seed I opened had spoons, big spoons. The animals ate every piece of fruit and vegetables they could reach during the summer. I have never seen anything quiet like it. The deer pulled peach limbs down and stripped them of their fruit and leaves. They ate all the rose bushes in my friend’s yard. An old man down the road told me they are stocking up for a bad winter. If that’s true, I will need to double my stack of firewood.

  • Reply
    Stacie Waters
    November 7, 2019 at 8:57 am

    I grew up in Michigan, but all of my family are from the hills of Eastern Kentucky, Tennessee, Virginia and well need I say more. My grandmother always said the stripe on the wooly worm was bigger when a winter “is Right bad”. I’m not sure what that means for the wooly worm but my mom and I have watched this for years and she seems to be right. She also told us that the nuts in the trees would be ‘aplenty God need them to help animals through they winter… seems so in my opinion. 97 years young and she did know a thing or two.

    • Reply
      Melissa P. (Misplaced Southerner)
      November 7, 2019 at 10:42 am

      Stacie, it appears as though we “swapped” spots! I was born in Kentucky and grew up in the South. I, now, live in Michigan (that is, of course, unless you’re still here). Our acorn crop this year was the heaviest I’ve ever seen, but they disappeared as fast as they could fall. Between the deer, squirrels, and chipmunks, there’s nary one on the ground. I did see a wooly worm in the barn earlier in the fall, and his stripe was huge. Think we’re in for a doozy!

  • Reply
    Sallie, The Apple Doll Lady
    November 7, 2019 at 8:54 am

    Related to this is probably hornets nests. Built high is supposed to mean more snow. Thanks for some interesting thoughts for the “coffee club”. We readers seem to have formed a group who enjoy reading your posts while having our coffee.

  • Reply
    Joyce SHELTON
    November 7, 2019 at 8:38 am


  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    November 7, 2019 at 8:36 am

    Sherry, the Carolina wrens we have here take spells when they land on the screens and peek in. I have wondered if I left the window open would they come in. I kinda think they would, look around awhile and go back out. They are not afraid of enclosed spaces.

    As for animal weather lore, there is one about how severe the winter will be by how high the hornet nests are. I think (but am not sure) if nests are high it will be an ‘open’ (mild to moderate) winter. Conversely, if low it means a long, esoecially cold winter with lots of snow.

    Then there is the one about the widths of the color bands on the ‘wooly worms’. I dis-remember how that one works to.

    I do think animals are more active just before a storm. I’m guessing they respond to barometric pressure. People who work outdoors a lot can develop a ‘sixth sense’ about weather also. They get to where they absorb clues from the environment without necessarily noticing. Then when the weight of evidence mounts enough they start paying particular attention. Nowadays, of course, a weather radio can substitute. But back in the day folks had to use their weather smarts to decide whether to start a job at all or push to finish one before the weather fell apart, such as getting the hay or cotton or tobacco in before it got wet.

  • Reply
    November 7, 2019 at 8:30 am

    When you hear a screech owl late in summer, it will be six weeks til cold weather. If you go walking in the woods right before it snows, everything is quiet. The birds sense that a storm is coming and they find a shelter and wait it out. Kinda akin to us settling down by the fire with a cup of hot chocolate and watching the snow falling outside.

  • Reply
    November 7, 2019 at 8:14 am

    Well here in Florida, we would love a smidgen of some of that cool right now. I did hear some owls hooting the other night. Maybe there is hope for some winter in this deep south.

  • Reply
    Sherry Case
    November 7, 2019 at 7:15 am

    I work at Clinch School, a K-12 school on Clinch Mountain in the Hawkins/Hancock County area of East Tennessee. Earlier this week we had two birds that were trying their best to get inside! And the crows gather outside my North facing room and have a talk every morning. I don’t believe this is weather lore, but it sure is interesting.

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    November 7, 2019 at 6:59 am

    I’ve heard a few of these and I do believe the animals sense when bad weather is coming and prepare for it. We could all probably sense it too if we were not so busy with our lives and cell phones. The Deer Hunter often senses weather changes, I think it’s because he is more attuned to the earth than most of us are.

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