I recognize that there are a few discussions on here already about how humans can properly survive a multi-year winter on Planetos, but I've not yet seen one about the animals. Note that my question is totally notwithstanding the possible conversion of animals into wight-imals.

Specifically, thinking of the fact that even animals in our world end up often hibernating for a few months during the worst of the winter, and all the animals able to be active in the winter are specially adapted for doing so, I'm wondering how it is that common animals such as deer and birds which are not adapted for polar conditions can find enough food and warmth to get through multiple years of winter (especially the ones that last a decade or more).

Carnivores would probably have it good for a while, but I don't see herbivores lasting long without ample plant life, and carnivores won't last long without herbivores.

I've read the whole series several times, and am aware of no real discussion of how wild animals manage. Perhaps something in a world book or interview? I'd prefer a book answer, but if this was mentioned in the TV show then I suppose that would be interesting as well.

  • 5
    They shiver, brrr...
    – Edlothiad
    Sep 25, 2017 at 18:10
  • @Edlothiad well played.
    – Paul
    Sep 25, 2017 at 18:23
  • I'll give a serious asnwer, again we don't know and likely won't find out.
    – Edlothiad
    Sep 25, 2017 at 18:24
  • 1
    Being them creatures living on a world that can have multi-year winters, they probably evolved to adapt to this particular situation. Maybe their habits and behaviors are different from our own world, even if the animals are the same.
    – Sekhemty
    Sep 25, 2017 at 18:58

2 Answers 2


Animals likely mirgate or starve and die, much like the humans do.

[Writer] But quite a lot of people are living there. What do they eat?

[GRRM] A lot of food is stored. Smoked, salted, packed away in granaries, and so on. The populations along the coast depend on fishing a great deal, and even inland, there is ice fishing on the rivers and on Long Lake. And some of the great lords try and maintain greenhouses to provide for their own castles... the "glass gardens" of Winterfell are referred to several times.

But the short answer is... if the winter lasts too long, the food runs out... and then people move south, or starve...

[Writer] Are there some areas without snow, which are suitable for agriculture, or are there significant temperature changes inside the "bigger seasons"? To grow a harvest, at least a couple of months' time of warm temperature (15-20 degrees by Celsius) is needed. Is it available in the North?

[GRRM] Sometimes. It is not something that can be relied on, given the random nature of the seasons, but there are "false springs" and "spirit summers." The maesters try and monitor temperature grand closely, to advise on when to plant and when to harvest and how much food to store.

[Writer] And what happens when a winter comes - five, six years long?

[GRRM] Famine happens. The north is cruel.

So we see that during the long winters that people must move south to survive or starve. This would be because the animals (the food source) has done the same. If the animals were able to survive the long winters, it would make it easier for the people who lived there as a supply of food would be more readily available.

  • They've always got fish, I'm not convinced with the reasoning
    – Edlothiad
    Sep 25, 2017 at 18:31
  • @Edlothiad - Ice fishing is mentioned, but I can’t imagine that it’s always a reliable means of preventing starvation.
    – Adamant
    Sep 25, 2017 at 18:56
  • @Adamant I wasn't talking about ice fishing, there's a whole load of seas which could be fished.
    – Edlothiad
    Sep 25, 2017 at 18:58
  • @Edlothiad - No doubt, but does everyone live close enough to them? The North is a large place. And I’m not convinced that there’s no starvation in extremely cold climates with plenty of fish.
    – Adamant
    Sep 25, 2017 at 19:43
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    @Adamant invest in a large enough fishing fleet, it'd be cold enough not to worry about keeping the frozen for transport, you could probably easily feed the north. There's a reason there's inhabitants in Alaska and on Greenland
    – Edlothiad
    Sep 25, 2017 at 19:46

The same as what happens to animals in our winters they migrate, hibernate, evolve or die.

However, we can speculate that animals must be able to survive north of the Wall where it is snowy and cold as the wildlings and Craster and his wives lived up there and so there must be food to catch, this is backed up with the following quote:

Mance nodded, and walked away, Harma and Sixskins beside him. Varamyr's wolves and shadowcat followed behind. Jon and Ygritte were left with Jarl, Rattleshirt, and the Magnar. The two older wildlings looked at Jon with ill-concealed rancor as Jarl said, "You heard, we ride at daybreak. Bring all the food you can, there'll be no time to hunt. And have your face seen to, crow. You look a bloody mess."
A Storm of Swords, Jon II

We also know that as of Season 7 Episode 6, "Beyond the Wall", other animals such as bears used to live beyond the Wall.

If animals are able to live this way all the time it makes sense that other animals will be able to do the same.

Note that there have also been other winters and animals have been around afterwards for food so we know they can survive.

  • 1
    I don't see how your quote from ASOS is relevant? It merely suggest that that day there will be no time to hunt. Furthermore, at that point in the story winter is still "coming".
    – Edlothiad
    Sep 26, 2017 at 8:28
  • @Edlothiad They're north of the Wall in the lands of always winter at that point. The quote is suggesting they also hunt there which is backing up my previous statement.
    – TheLethalCarrot
    Sep 26, 2017 at 8:30
  • @TheLethalCarrot there is a vast expanse of wilderness between the wall and the Land of Always Winter; probably more space than the distance between KL and Winterfell. The fact that things live north of the wall does not mean they live in polar regions when everyone else is in Summer.
    – Paul
    Sep 26, 2017 at 17:26
  • @Paul I edited to change away from lands of always winter. I meant north of the Wall it is always snowy as we witness from the show.
    – TheLethalCarrot
    Sep 26, 2017 at 18:47
  • @TheLethalCarrot It's not always snowy north of the wall; the show just starts off when Winter is getting close, and it starts snowing to the north sooner than in the south. In the books they refer to summer snows even, in the North.
    – Paul
    Sep 26, 2017 at 20:55

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