Fun Fact Friday: A Natural Winter Windbreak in Sagebrush
Story By Nancy Patterson, Public Affairs Specialist, Greater Sage-Grouse Rocky Mountain Region; Photos by Nancy Patterson (BLM), Lisa Marks (BLM), and Tom Koerner (USFWS)
It’s blizzarding in sagebrush country! Negative temperatures, snowfall, and winds pull together for a threatening whiteout. What are wildlife to do out in the Big Empty to protect themselves from winter weather conditions? Let sagebrush come to the rescue!
While black-tailed prairie dogs hide out in their burrows during snowstorms and horned lizards move into hibernation, many of sagebrush country’s more than 350 species depend on lucky breaks among the shrubs for food and shelter.
Sagebrush have a long tap root, which helps secure it to the ground and draw water and nutrients from the soil. These nutrients enter the plant and some transpose to wildlife that eat their ever-verdant leaves. Mule deer, pronghorn antelope, and Greater sage-grouse all depend on this food source in winter months.