The California drought has been hard on its human residents, but cloudless skies are also leaving the Golden State’s wildlife high and dry.
According to KSBY, wildlife officials are reporting that California animals are increasingly facing starvation and homelessness as the drought plaguing the state causes temperatures to skyrocket and water sources to dwindle.
As animals are forced out of their natural habitats, they can undergo dehydration or even debilitating illness. As plants dry up, animals are also slowing starving, in turn affecting the predators that rely on them to survive. Young animals can also be abandoned, as their parents cope with limited resources. Not even fish are spared from the drought, with several perishing as lakes and rivers heat up, lose oxygen or completely dry up.
As animals seek out water sources, they can experience further issues. Migrating birds are crowding together into shrinking wetlands, increasing their risk of disease that can lead to massive die-offs. And in their exodus for water, animals are often forced to enter new territories, where they can be killed by a new set of predators. And the dry grasses pose an even greater threat to animals as wildfire season approaches.
Californians may be praying for rain, but they still possess water reserves that would be the envy of many animals, and green lawns and gardens, sprinkler systems and pools are an irresistible attraction for parched animals escaping a barren forest. But as wildlife enter urban areas, they also can be injured or killed by accident or by humans who perceive them as pests. In a bid to minimize conflict and keep humans and animals safe, California officials have warned residents in cities and suburbs that they may see more deer, coyotes, or even bears as a result of drought conditions.
The influx of animals struggling from the drought is straining wildlife rescue centers. At Animal Rescue Team in in Solvang, the shelter has already cared for more than half of the animals this year than they saw in 2014.
As officials work to conserve water and offer a temporary respite for wildlife, animal rescue workers are asking the public to contact them if they notice a wild animal which seems in distress or out of place, and to not try and help the animal themselves. They say well-meaning efforts like leaving food and water for wild animals will lure them into urban neighborhoods and expose them to further danger. They also say volunteers are frequently needed at wildlife rescue centers to help drought-stricken animals.