Some animals are more fit than others for life in the freezing cold. From thick winter coats to insulating layers of blubber, helpful traits allow some creatures to thrive in the harshest winter environments. In fact, we can't help but wish we were as prepared for winter as these 15 animals.
Click through for 15 creatures well-suited for the cold.
You might know these furry creatures as snow monkeys. Other than humans, they're the most northern-living primates in the world. They live in the coldest climate of any nonhuman primate. The red-faced monkeys inhabit four of Japan's five main islands, with the northernmost populations living in subarctic forests in the mountains of the Shimokita Peninsula.
Snow covers the ground for four months every year in Shimokita, and winter temperatures average around 14 degrees Farenheit. Even snow monkeys need respite from brutal winter days. Beginning in the 1960s, the monkeys took a cue from humans and started bathing in the area's volcanic hot springs. Now that's how you fight the cold.
Beluga whales are found in the Arctic Ocean and its adjoining seas. Also called white whales (for obvious reasons), belugas can blend into icy environments thanks to their trademark color. Unlike most whales, belugas don't have dorsal fins. Experts think this adaptation helps them to preserve body heat by reducing the animals' surface area; it also allows them to swim deftly under extensive ice sheets.
Belugas swim in freezing waters, so it's no coincidence they have the greatest percentage of blubber of any whale. They also have an echolocation organ, called the melon, at the front of their head. Along with hunting and navigating, it helps them find breathing holes in the ice.
Canada lynx are found predominantly in the northern forests of Alaska and Canada, but smaller, threatened populations also live in northern regions of the lower 48 states.
They stay warm with a thick winter coat, and their long legs allow them to move easily through the snow. Canada lynx also have furry, wide, padded paws that act like snowshoes to help them trek through the rugged winter terrain.
Polar bears are fully equipped for Arctic life. They have large paws with furry soles to help them walk on snow and ice; their thick coat of white fur acts as camouflage and insulation; and a layer of blubber acts both as a store of energy and a defense against the cold.
While the bears are built to thrive in the harsh environment, it's global warming that's the real threat. Arctic sea ice is melting earlier than ever before -- this time summer sea ice reached an all-time low -- making hunting at sea increasingly challenging for the polar bears.
Wind chill can reach -76°F on the Antarctic ice, but emperor penguins have a few tricks to keep warm. To endure the harsh weather, they have four dense layers of feathers, specialized nasal chambers that recover 80 percent of heat lost through breathing, small extremities and a thick layer of fat.
The large birds (they're about 45 inches tall) also huddle together to protect themselves from the biting wind, each taking turns in the warmer shielded interior. Emperor penguins are the only animal that breeds during the Antarctic winter, so they need all the help they can get.
When winter temperatures in the Arctic fall to –58°F, the arctic fox burrows into the ground, and sometimes into the snow, seeking shelter. Their white coats allow them to blend into their surroundings, and they use their bushy tails for cover. Their small ears and short muzzle help to keep them warm, and their furry paws make walking on ice and snow a bit more comfortable. In the summer, their snow-white fur turns to brown or gray to camouflage them in rocks and foliage.
The musk ox lives mostly in Arctic Canada and Greenland, and it feeds on the roots and mosses of the tundra. In the winter, when snow and ice cover the earth, musk oxen use their hooves to dig for food.
A thick coat of long, shaggy hair covers almost their entire body for insulation from the cold. Fortunately for them, when summer rolls around, musk oxen shed their warm undercoat.
Hares typically have longer ears than rabbits, but the arctic hare conserves body heat with its relatively short ears. Living in the North American tundra, the arctic hare doesn't hibernate in winter. Its thick coat turns snow white, and the hare survives eating woolly plants it digs up from under the ice and snow.
Caribou -- or reindeer -- aren't confined to the North Pole. In fact, some North American caribou make the longest migration of any land mammal, traveling over 3,000 miles. The elk-like animals have large hooves that help them walk on the rough Arctic and subarctic landscape and paddle efficiently through water. The hollowed-out hoof also facilitates easy digging through snow for food; its sharp edges help caribou balance on rocks and ice.
The leopard seal, also called the sea leopard, is a fierce hunter of Antarctic waters. With powerful jaws, leopard seals feed on fish, penguins, squid and smaller seals. Their patterned fur -- dark on top and lighter on their underbellies -- acts as camouflage in the water. Lucky for them, a thick layer of blubber provides insulation from the cold.
Found in Arctic waters around Canada and Greenland, narwhals are easily recognizable due to their long, ivory tusks. In truth, only the males have the prominent spiral tusk; it's a canine tooth. Like their closest relative, the beluga, narwhals have forehead melons for echolocation. They also lack a dorsal fin, which helps them preserve body heat and swim with ease under ice sheets.
Narwhals are especially adapted for deep sea diving and perform some of the deepest dives of any marine animal, venturing nearly 1,000 feet down. Their flexible rib cage allows them to withstand the intense pressure of deep water, and they are especially equipped to carry oxygen for long periods, as well as minimize oxygen consumption.
Snow leopards live primarily in the mountains of Central Asia. They stay warm with a coat of thick fur and use their long, thick tails as blankets, which they drape over their bodies for extra warmth. Their wide, furry paws and powerful legs help them travel through thick snow, while their stocky body helps retain heat.
The snowy owl, also called the Arctic owl and the great white owl, is one of the largest and heaviest species of owls, with a wingspan of 50-60 inches. They nest in the northern Alaskan, Canadian and Eurasian tundras and, depending on food supply, migrate farther south during winter.
Not only do the owls' white feathers act as camouflage in the Arctic, but the thick plumage, which even covers the birds' toes, also provides insulation from the cold. The owls' sharp eyesight and hearing help them hunt rodents and other prey hiding under vegetation or snow.
The massive blubbery body of the walrus helps it to stay warm in frigid Arctic waters. Walruses can also slow down their heart rate to conserve oxygen while diving. They use their tusks -- found on both males and females -- to help pull their huge bodies out of the water as well as to break breathing holes into the ice from underwater.
Next: 15 Truly Bizarre Creatures of the Deep
The largest member of the weasel family, the wolverine is a ferocious, solitary animal. Wolverines live mostly in northern Canada and Alaska as well as north Eurasia. Wolverines have a thick, dense coat that's resistent to frost; the stiff hairs along their underbellies help them move easily across snow.
Amazing Cold-Weather CreaturesThese 15 animals thrive in extremely cold climates around the world