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Fireworks and Wildlife

Independence Day means fireworks and wildlife are undoubtedly going to mix.

In terms of a good, fun holiday, it's hard to beat the Fourth of July. Annually, families and friends gather to fire up the grill, swim, play outdoor games, or get out and enjoy some summer fishing or varmint hunting.

The real excitement, of course, comes at night. Once the sun starts to dip below the horizon, the fireworks will start.

Whether shot off by individuals in their neighborhoods or in huge display, Fourth of July fireworks are an inevitable tradition.

However, as fun as it is for us, the Fourth of July is often terrifying for animals. Anyone with pets knows the importance of bringing the cat indoors before dusk and giving the dog a sedative or a Thunder Jacket to calm them down when the explosions go off.

Animal shelters report a sudden influx of animals, domestic or stray, often wounded from their frantic attempts to escape. For wild animals, there is no such relief.

The chief cause of discomfort for animals is, of course, the deafening blasts that fireworks emit. Most animals have far more acute hearing than our own. With explosions as loud as 190 decibels, it's no wonder the sound of fireworks elicits panic, confusion, and anxiety in animals.

Humans can suffer hearing damage at only 75 decibels, and that's with our poorer hearing. For animals, the sound is magnified, and they often don't know where it comes from.

The damage it does to wildlife populations is clear. When the fireworks go off, wild animals are known to run in blind panic. Animals such as deer charge into roads, increasing the number of animal-related accidents.

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Birds, in particular, suffer greatly every year. According to studies conducted by the University of Guelph and the US Fish and Wildlife Service, nesting birds are known to abandon their nests in the confusion, leaving their flightless chicks alone, often to die.

These same birds have also been known to fly into buildings or out to sea, too far to return safely. Those who do return to their nests are known to suffer from weight loss, sluggishness, and poor sleep patterns in the weeks following a fireworks display.

Even after the event is over, fireworks continue to cause harm to wildlife. In addition to the clear light and noise pollution, the smoke from the explosions can cause damage to birds' respiratory systems. Chemicals and debris pollute ponds and lakes for weeks, driving the death toll steadily upward.

As harmful as they can be, fireworks are simply too popular to be eliminated for good. However, there are ways for everyone to help:

  • Minimize the noise: The noise is the key in these events. Choose quieter options to avoid disrupting wildlife too much.
  • Choose fireworks with minimal waste: If you can't clean up after it, maybe you shouldn't shoot it off. Try to pick fireworks you can swiftly and easily dispose of after the display.
  • Steer clear of areas with a heavy wildlife population: If at all possible, try to shoot off fireworks in areas with as few wild animals as possible.
  • Laser shows: Similarly dazzling, laser shows are far less disruptive to the environment.
  • Dazzlers and sparklers: Opt for lesser impactful options like dazzlers and sparklers. It'll result in slightly less noise to startle wild animals.
  • Drive slowly: Animals are going to be running scared. Be prepared to brake suddenly and avoid collisions.

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Fireworks and Wildlife