Dire drought situation impacts local wildlife

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Arizona is currently in a state of extreme drought, with no significant improvement in sight. And that lack of water is increasingly impacting wildlife. We talked about efforts to address the issue with jim heffelfinger of arizona game and fish.

“It’s pretty crispy, it’s pretty depressing,” Heffelfinger said. “About 95% of Arizona is in severe or exceptional drought right now.”

He said that the wildlife is slightly adjusted to conditions as such, but generally it’s a dire situation. He said that there’s few wildlife in the Arizona deserts that aren’t affected by this level of drought.

“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.”

When there’s no rain to begin with for that green vegetation, it can have an impact on the ecosystem as a whole. In some cases, it can lead to the animals completely dying off.

“Especially some of the smaller ones, like the rabbits, birds, all of the ones who depend so much on that nutritional layer, have lower survival.”

Larger desert animals such as the Javelina and Deer are also affected by the drought through lower fat reserves, which are important to get them through periods like this. If their water hole dries up they have to go search for other water sources, which can lead to negatively influencing their migratory pattern.

Jim Heffelfinger, Wildlife Science Coordinator, Arizona Game and Fish Department

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