Drought Affecting Animals
From the wild outback of Australia to the farms in the Midwest to the Great Lakes, animals are feeling the heat brought by droughts and prolonged high temperatures.
Huffington Post Green reports of smaller livestock and vegetables being brought into state and county fairs in the Midwest, and one farmer brought pigs into the Wisconsin State fair about 15 pounds smaller than the average 275 pounds. The farmer said the heat affected the pigs virility and appetites, and reported that he had a hard time getting them into condition. David Laatsch, an agriculture agent with the University of Wisconsin Extension who judged several county fairs this summer, reported seeing fewer exhibitors and smaller animals. He also observed poultry sporting fewer and narrower feathers. Laatsch said that heat disrupts cow’s reproductive cycles and lowers their milk production, which may have been one reason for potential exhibitors to stay home. Vegetables and flowers entered into the fair are also smaller than and not as colorful as previous years’ entries. Astrid Newhouse is an agricultural scientist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison who judged a county fair where entries were down by two-thirds. She reported seeing smaller vegetables and lilies, and only one gladiola entry when there were usually about two dozen. The reduction in both size and number of entries were attributed to drought and prolonged high temperatures.
If farm animals and plants are stressed, fauna and flora in the wild are hard hit. Competition for resources naturally increases during drought, with some species gaining the upper hand and others losing out. BBC News reports of feral camels in Australia hit by the drought and culling programs. The Australian feral camels are the largest wild herd in the world with populations estimated at one million in past years. Now it has been reduced by a quarter through culls and sales, but authorities say some populations were still too dense in several areas.
Fitted collars monitored about 50 camels and revealed the extent of damage the camels can cause to the environment and local species. Wildlife scientist Glenn Edwards reported that a large herd can converge on a natural waterhole and drink it dry in a few days, putting local animal and plant species at a disadvantage. The camels also destroyed habitat and competed for food sources. BBC reports that the feral camels cost 10 million Australian dollars in grazing land loss and damage.
Even living in an aquatic environment doesn’t guarantee an escape from the heat. Great Lakes Echo reports of fish kills in rivers due to unusual and prolonged high temperatures in the Great Lakes region. 60 separate incidents of fish kill has been reported in Illinois, about a dozen in Indiana, and several were also reported across Michigan, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and other states. Most of the fish kills were reported to be numbered at 100 or less. Randy Schumacher, fisheries supervisor for the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, says that species are unable to tolerate high temperatures for extended periods of time. Pikes, brown trout, bluegills and Asian carps were included in the die-offs among others. Though summer fish kills are not unusual, there have been more reports lately because of the drought and the summer heat, with some reservoirs registering 90 degrees of surface water temperatures. Schumacher says that with the return of high temperatures, more reports of the same could be expected to continue.
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