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Word of the Week: Latibule

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Welcome to Word of the Week! Stay tuned for a new word each Wednesday to amp up your nature vocabulary!

What Does Latibule Mean? 

Word of the week is Latibule [LA-tee-bewl] (noun): A hiding place; a place of safety and comfort.

How is Latibule Related to Animals? 

Do you remember as kids when we used to have our hiding places? We would go there to escape the realities of life, such as a tree house or a fort. You may have kept some of your favorite things there too, like your favorite toys, books, or even snacks.

If you didn’t have this, then it may have been your room, another place to safeguard anything special to you. As an adult, your hiding place or space of comfort during storms or the winter months would be your home.

Animals have a similar process. All animals need food, water, space, and shelter, just like people. This is especially true in  the winter months when these essentials can become harder to find. Because of this some animals such as birds have become adapted to migrate somewhere in which these needs can be met easily.

However, for the animals that hibernate or tough it out all winter, a shelter or latibule, becomes extra important in ensuring survival and providing protection from the wind, snow, and cold.

There are many reasons why animals will need a place of comfort or a latibule. Let’s dive a little deeper together!

Why Do Animals Need Shelter? 

Reproduction

One reason why animals need a place of safety is for reproductive reasons. Since eggs and babies can’t defend themselves, they need a place to be protected from harsh weather conditions and predators.

Weather Conditions

Extreme weather conditions are another reason why animals need shelter. Though some creatures have adapted to extreme heat or cold or unseen storms, others have not done so. Because of this, they will need a place that can protect them.

Food

A latibule can act as a place to store food. When food becomes scarce or the time for hibernation approaches, having a spot where food can be stored is key to survival for many animals.

Hiding from Other Animals

Smaller animals will need shelter to be able to hide from predators. During key times during the day or night when some animals are on the hunt, prey animals will need a place to lay low. The latibule is perfect for that.

If you go out into nature for a wander, you might be able to spot some of the fascinating latibules that many of the resident wildlife have spent much time prepping.

Here is a small list made up of some examples that we’ve seen in High Park:

Insect Gall

Galls are unusual growths that occur on leaves, twigs, or roots. It is the reaction of plant cells when insects start to feed or lay eggs. Galls provide a home for insects where they can eat, reproduce, and develop.

Muskrat/Beaver Lodge

Muskrat lodges are constructed by gathering plants and mud into a mound on the water. Beavers and muskrats access this by digging into the mud below the water and creating a room in the center. Beaver lodges are very similar to Muskrat lodges, however, they are larger and will be made from sticks and small logs.

Fox or Coyote Den

Red Foxes and Coyotes build homes, referred to as their dens, in open patches of native grass or at the edge of the forest. The main difference between a Coyote and a Fox den is that a Fox den will be surprisingly bigger though they’re a much smaller animal.

Squirrel Drey

The nest of a squirrel is called a drey. Dreys are usually made from twigs, dry leaves, and grass. When trying to spot this house, look for forks in tall trees. These homes are used to raise offspring and to stay warm during the winter.

Insect Ootheca or Cocoon

An insect ootheca is a mass of eggs produced by insect species, like Preying Mantis, that are protected by a covering. Preying Mantis will lay their egg mass on leaves, twigs, or even the side of buildings. An insect cocoon, however, is a protective casing usually made of silk to protect eggs from extreme weather and other elements.

Tree Cavity

Starting from a damaged spot in a tree, like a lost branch or severe bark damage, tree cavity grows as the heartwood rots inside a standing tree. Tree cavities are a hot commodity on the wildlife real estate scene.  Due to modern forestry practices there are less tree cavities available. They’re popular homes for owls, raccoons, and squirrels.

Bird Nests

Birds build nests to lay their eggs and raise their young. With over 10,000 species of birds worldwide, bird nests come in all shapes and sizes. Nests can be built in trees with sticks and mud, on rock cliffs, inside tree cavities, in underground burrows, in bank side nooks, and on the walls of chimneys!

Abandoned Paper Wasp Nests

A paper wasp nest similar to birds is the home of wasps. When a wasp nest has been abandoned by them they will not come back to reuse it but will make another one around the same location as the old one. However, birds will sometimes rip away bits of the paper to make a nest for themselves.

Chipmunk Burrows

Chipmunks will dig burrows underneath or next to natural or man-made covers. Some will be shallow if they need a place to hide after hunting all day. There will be others that will be more complex so they can protect their food and spend months in the winter.

Snake Hibernaculum

This is an underground chamber that snakes will use during winter to protect themselves from the cold. Snakes usually choose a place that is close to water, and a place where the temperature remains above freezing.

Hollow Logs

This is another form of a tree cavity that is formed in the trunk or branch of a living or dead tree. Raccoons, porcupines, gray foxes, and many more animals will use hollow logs as a place to live.

When a tree falls in a forest, does it make a sound? Maybe, but with time, it will certainly become a hollow log! The center of a tree, or heartwood, will decompose faster than other parts. Many animals build homes in hollow logs including Coyotes, Red Foxes, and Minks.

How great is it to learn about the different shelters of so many different animals! On your next winter visit to High Park keep an eye out for some of the latibules mentioned above and let us know which ones you were able to find! 

To learn more about latibules come join one of our nature clubs or bring the family for a family nature walk.

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