As winter nears, many mammals are busy getting ready to deal with the onset of Maine’s longest season.

Maine is home to a diverse group of animal species, and much like ourselves, they all have their own way to deal with winter. Many furbearing mammals such as deer and bear will fatten up in order to survive. Moose, protected by a thick coat of insulating hollow body hairs, actually are more active in the cold of winter than in the heat of the summer.

But what about thin-skinned amphibians such as salamanders and frogs? And while a shell may offer protection from predators, it doesn’t really provide much warmth for a turtle.

For that reason, turtles and other reptiles and amphibians will seek an area where the temperature is constant.

“With the exception of box turtles, which are totally terrestrial, all other turtles in Maine will spend the winter underwater,” said Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife biologist Derek Yorks, who specializes in reptiles and amphibians.

“Turtles, like painted turtles, snapping turtles and musk turtles, will seek out soft muddy bottoms of ponds and lakes where they will burrow into the mud,” said Yorks. In some areas, where there may be little overwintering habitat, you may find a cove in a pond that has multiple turtles.

Blanding’s and spotted turtles will seek out shrubby swamps, and will burrow underneath the underwater root systems of these shrubs, said Yorks. Sometimes multiple turtles will be under the same clump of shrubs. Wood turtles will seek out streams, and will winter on the bottom of deeper pools that have a sandy, gravelly bottom.

Even though their metabolism does slow considerably, turtles do need oxygen to survive. While underwater, they absorb oxygen through blood-vessel rich membranes in their mouth, throat and cloaca.

Bullfrogs and green frogs are similar in that they will hibernate underwater, but nestled in the mud with skin exposed instead of buried like a turtle. They will absorb oxygen through their skin and will sometimes even move around under the ice.

Wood frogs hibernate out of the water and can freeze near solid. However, they produce a natural antifreeze of glycol that protects their cells and organs. Wood frogs will often burrow beneath leaf litter, rotting logs and stumps to hibernate where they can withstand sub-freezing temperatures.

“Wood frogs are the only amphibians that you will find in the Arctic Circle,” said Yorks, adding that their body chemistry allows for them to freeze and refreeze. You can also find them as far south as the southern Appalachian states.

Stream salamanders such as dusky, two-lined and spring salamanders will overwinter in springs and brooks, and remain active, absorbing oxygen through their skin and membranes in their throats.

“Woodland salamanders such as red-backed, spotted and blue-spotted salamanders overwinter on land,” says Yorks. These amphibians will burrow below leaf litter and rotting wood for thermal protection.

Red-backed salamanders will burrow deeper than others, wintering 16 to 35 inches below the surface. Unable to dig well on their own, they will use cracks in rocks, and follow tree roots and other naturally formed openings. They do not overwinter as well as other salamander species, so they can experience high mortality when there is not much insulating snow.

And what about snakes?

Garter snakes often will hibernate in common areas where there can be dozens of snakes in a suitable area. They will use cracks in rocks, or south-facing rocky, gravely slopes. These snakes have been known to travel considerable distances to favored hibernacula, particularly if there is no other winter habitat nearby.

In the spring, if your timing is right, you can find dozens of garter snakes emerging from a relatively small area in a short amount of time. In some states, they say the snakes are so thick you can’t walk without stepping on one. Thankfully, Maine is not one of them.

Mark Latti is a Registered Maine Guide and the outreach coordinator for the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife.