Friday, August 1, 2014

How the Drought Affects Our Interactions With Wildlife

We've showcased how the current drought in California is affecting its citizens. Fines are being proposed for water wasters, towns are running out of drinking and bathing water, and residents are being urged to conserve water whenever possible. But how is the drought impacting California’s non-human residents?

During times of drought, wild animals may have to venture out further in search of food and water. These shortages in water and food can lead to the deaths of many fauna, especially deer. But the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) reminds us that our sympathy for these creatures must be kept in check. "Although these periods can be stressful for animals, they are also a natural part of ecological systems that regulates their numbers. In nature, we must realistically expect some starvation and overall increased mortality. Otherwise, nature wouldn't be natural," said Marc Kenyon, CDFW senior environmental scientist. 

Deer and bear are considered “big game” mammals in California and it is against the law to feed them, with penalties that range from large fines to jail time. People may have well intentions when setting out food for these drought-stricken animals, but the effects ultimately do more harm than good for the ecosystem as a whole. Feeding deer can cause large numbers of them to congregate in residential areas, which increases the risk of automobile fatalities for humans and deer alike. The unnatural attraction of deer can also attract mountain lions and other predators to residential areas. And as always, it’s recommended to secure outdoor trash cans to fend off bears scrounging for food, often damaging valuable property in the process.

Limited and regulated interaction with wildlife is something that’s always necessary in our society, but in these times of water scarcity the boundaries between our world and the natural world are especially underscored. It’s important to keep our interference with this fragile balance as minimal as possible.

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