by Harsha Nahata
July was the hottest month ever recorded in the U.S. with 3,135 record temperatures set. The heat, together with the excessive drought facing 63 percent of the nation, have animals across the U.S. struggling to stay cool and find food. Here are a few examples of how animals are adjusting to the heat.
- Zoo Animals Struggle In The Heat: At zoos around the country, animals are having trouble coping with constant triple-digit temperatures. Zookeepers at Henson Robinson Zoo in Springfield, Illinois, for example, are monitoring animals to ensure they don’t fall sick, allowing animals to spend more time in sheltered areas and replenishing water and even frozen food.
- More Black Bear Encounters: The heat has Black Bears coming out of hiding, as they look for food in a water-scarce habitat. Most of the country is facing drought, which has dried up their stock of berries and greens. Because of the depletion in their food supply, bears are turning to alternatives — combing through garbage, breaking through screens, and looking inside cars to find food. In northern New York state, a bear broke into a candy store looking for sweet treats to munch on.
- Number Of Fish Kills Rise: The record heat has raised water temperatures as well. With bodies of water in the Midwest reaching up to 97 degrees, more fish than usual are dying off. Reports suggest that fish are dying in the tens of thousands. Fish kills are common year round, as part of a natural cycle. But this year the record heat and drought have increased this number, leading to “tens of thousands” of fish kills, worse than ever before in the Midwest.
The mild winter and record hot summer have taken their toll on animal behavior and survival in a variety of ways. For instance, Chicago has seen a decline in its squirrel population, as more older squirrels survive a milder winter and compete for resources, leaving newborns more vulnerable. Lemurs, which usually do what they can to steer clear of water, lately have made exceptions to seek relief in cooler, wetter parts. The shortage of food due to the drought combined with a loss in appetite because of the heat have also affected farm animals like cattle and pigs, making some thinner and less healthy. Overall the heat has caused some animals to become lethargic and lose their appetites, also placing them at risk for heatstroke.
– Harsha Nahata is an intern with the ThinkProgress War Room.