Wildlife Wednesdays: Effects from Drought | weatherology°
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By: Meteorologist Megan Mulford
Updated: Jul 29th 2020

Wildlife Wednesdays: Effects from Drought

In the second half of the 20th century, droughts were relatively rare, but continuing changes in climate will potentially cause more extreme dry periods. When we have a drought, it affects our communities and environment in different ways because water is such an important part of our lives, as well as the lives of animals. When a drought occurs, their food supply can shrink and their habitat can be damaged. Sometimes this damage is only temporary, meaning their habitat and food supply returns to normal once the drought is over. Sometimes a drought can be long-lasting which causes major damage, such as the following:

- Loss or destruction of fish and wildlife habitat

- Lack of food and drinking water for wild animals

- With reduced water and food supplies, disease in animals is more common

- Migration of wildlife

- Increase stress on endangered species or even extinction 

- Lower water levels in reservoirs, lakes, and ponds

- Loss of wetlands

- More wildfires

- Wind and water erosion of soils

- Poor soil quality 

Sometimes, more severe droughts will result in more conflicts between humans and wildlife. For example, with less berries and acorns available, more black bears will enter suburban areas searching for food such as in garbage cans, grease on BBQ grills, bird seed, and sugar water in hummingbird feeders. Raccoons will also likely seek garbage cans for food, vegetables in gardens, and even pet food that has been left out. Bighorn sheep, deer, and elk may feed on greener grass alongside roads, which likely will cause more vehicle collisions with wildlife. Also, with the decrease in wildlife due to death from droughts, ranchers who hunt will likely have reduced incomes. 

As previously mentioned, drought means less water, and therefore less plant growth. This can reduce insect populations such as mosquitoes. As nice as that sounds to have less mosquitoes, animals (like bats) need to eat insects to build fat reserves for migration and hibernation. Thus, no mosquitoes leads to no bats :-(. Less water also means less available habitats for waterfowl, beavers, muskrats, and other animals. Crowding occurs with animals trying to get access to food and water, which makes them more susceptible to diseases as well as competition with other animals. 

Less water and food will result in conflict between humans and animals
Less water=less insects=less bats
bighorn sheep
Greener grass along roads could cause more animal and vehicle collisions