If you get thirsty or you want something to eat, it’s pretty easy for you to pop open the fridge or fill a glass of water from your kitchen sink. But for the thousands of animals across the West right now, it’s not that easy. And in Arizona, it’s pretty dire.
The Grand Canyon State is suffering from extreme drought with little relief in sight and, according to the Arizona Department of Game and Fish’s Jim Heffelfinger, even the animals used to the desert aren’t faring so well.
“It’s pretty crispy, it’s pretty depressing,” said Heffelfinger. “About 95% of Arizona is in severe or exceptional drought right now.”
“If you think about rain in a desert environment like this, if you think about the food web. Rain creates the green vegetation, the green vegetation then supports the plant eaters, and the plant eaters support the mid-level predators.”
Rabbits, birds are definitely on the lower end of the survival chain; however, even javelina and deer are impacted because they have lower fat reserves, which Heffelfinger says “are important to get them through periods like this.”
With prolonged drought as severe as this is, it can create an unbalanced ecosystem that can result in some animals “completely dying off,” Arizona PBS News reports. Or migratory patterns that change to adapt to the situation.
“If their water hole dries up, they have to go search for another one,” says Heffelfinger. “And that can get them moving across highways that puts them at a greater risk for mortality.”