The Effect of Hurricane Harvey on Wildlife

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Baby deer and its mother during the flooding in Texas during Hurricane Harvey

Image: Shutterstock/Eric V Overton

In the Aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, many stories are coming to light about the great devastation to people and their property, but another group that is affected by Hurricane Harvey is the wildlife. Wild animals have been displaced by the storm and the subsequent flooding. Many false or exaggerated reports have surfaced on social media about alligators in the flood waters. Though that is a real issue to some degree, there are other real problems for wildlife as a result of the storm. Here is a closer look at the real issues facing the wildlife in the greater Houston area.

There are several issues caused by the storm that in turn cause issues for wildlife. The winds in a hurricane can blow animals out of their habitat, and flood waters can make animals be forced to swim that are too young to do so. There are several situations that can separate the young from their parents. This is the issue that is effecting several species in the Houston area after Hurricane Harvey. Thousands of animals have been displaced or orphaned as a result of the storm. The damage to the squirrel and deer populations may be felt for a while, due to the amount of orphaned or dead animals. Several agencies have been flooded with displaced and orphaned animals, and the squirrel orphans seem to be one of the largest populations. There are several agencies that are taking them in and rehabilitating them, including the Austin Wildlife Rescue, the Houston SPCA Wildlife center of Texas, and the Texas Wildlife Rescue Center. If you are able to help, please find out what they need help with and donate accordingly.

Winds also make a bad situation for birds because it can make it difficult for them to fly away from the storm and can cause injuries. The story of Harvey the hawk that took refuge in a taxi cab shows the issues that the storm can cause for birds. Many of the fresh water marshes that many animals call home have been flooded with salt water or are currently under water altogether. A greater issue may be caused for birds that cannot fly. The Attwater’s Prairie-Chicken is an endangered sub-species of the Greater Prairie Chicken whose numbers are down to around 100 animals in the wild. The birds have been struggling to protect their chicks from, and compete for food resources with, the invasive fire ant populations (which seem to be largely intact because of their group flood defense) and now, Hurricane Harvey has caused great damage and flooding in their home habitat. Hummingbirds have lost the majority of flowering plants that they use for food, and there are not enough feeders around to facilitate the volume of birds that need to eat.

Reptiles were also hit hard by the storm. Alligators tend to enjoy swamps, marshes, or warmer waters. The places where they normally live have been flooded with cold or salty waters, and they are being displaced just as the people are. Snakes are also being pushed out by the flooding. Experts say to give the reptiles a safe distance, and remember that they are just trying to survive too.

It is really difficult to fully assess the damage to populations and habitats at this point. The damage that sewage, chemicals, and salt water will have on the environment in the coming years remains to be seen. Though tragic, the human loss and displacement from the storm is not the only loss. Wildlife is being hit hard as well. If humans do not address the causes of a warming climate, then these types of catastrophes will become more frequent.

If you can donate time, money, or supplies to help the wildlife, then please contact on of the following agencies.

Austin Wildlife Rescue

Houston SPCA Wildlife center of Texas

Texas Wildlife Rescue Center

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