Where do animals go in a hurricane?
Florida’s wildlife is well adapted to the state’s weather extremes. Their early warning system lies in the ability to sense any change in the barometric pressure and move to safer locations. Members of the animal kingdom seem to find places to hide from a storm’s wrath.
Water birds and shorebirds move inland during storms. Many birds will fly to the outer edge of a storm and find a safe place to hunker down – sometimes hundreds of miles away. Birds have the ability to tighten their grip and hold on during high winds, just as they do when sleeping. Cavity nesters, like woodpeckers will often ride out the storm in the tree. Many species of wildlife know the areas of the forest where they will be best protected from the worst winds. Chicks in a twig or ground nest are at the highest risk for injury.
Natural disaster disrupts and affects everything in its path, including wildlife. Livestock and pets are not always able to get out of harm’s way on their own. A sad fact is that there is usually some loss to wildlife and habitat as a result of severe storms. The good news is that wildlife in general is amazingly resilient.
While we can never place animal life above human life, it is important to be sensitive to the needs of both wildlife and domestic animals as much as we can before and after a natural disaster.
Following the 2004 hurricanes, FEMA brought in veterinarians from other states to help rescue and treat the thousands of domestic animals that resided in the Florida counties that were declared federal disaster areas.
The Humane Society collected pets found disoriented and wandering aimlessly and gave them food and shelter until the rightful owners could be found. Those unclaimed pets were later offered for adoption.
Volunteers from area wildlife rehab centers were busy with rescue and treatment of injured, displaced and orphaned animals following the hurricanes. Biologists from Florida’s Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) monitored the impact to wildlife for weeks following the storms. Research shows that most of Florida’s ecosystems and wildlife populations recover, or adapt, quickly after even the severest storms.
Column & photos by Sandi Staton – firstname.lastname@example.org
Read the full Nature’s Reflections article in the July 2017 SECO News here.