Despite widespread drought about Massachusetts, biologists assure that the local wildlife, such as squirrels, squirrels and birds are doing just fine.
While the state has placed restrictions on using outdoor water in response to the drought, native wildlife is equipped to conserve water and avoid periods of drought. persistently dry weather. And despite the damage to lawns and gardens, David Scarpitti, a biologist with the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife, said the drought is not severe enough to raise concerns for animal welfare.
“I don’t think this is really outside the limits of what a lot of the species around here have to go through,” Scarpitti said. “They evolved in an environment where seasonal things get dry.”
More than 43 percent of Massachusetts experiences severe drought, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor, and the entire state is considered abnormally dry. But Scarpitti said the dry spells in Massachusetts are relatively short, and a drought would have to last for several seasons to put significant strain on wildlife.
Marj Rines, a naturalist at Mass Audubon, agrees that statewide drought does not threaten animals, as critical bodies of water, such as reservoirs and rivers, are still sources of drinking water. While drought can cause “ephemeral” bodies of water like shallow ponds and small streams to evaporate, small animals and birds are able to get enough moisture from the plants and insects they eat.
Scarpitti said animals are able to conserve water and energy by resting during the hottest, driest parts of the day and foraging for food at dusk or taking advantage of morning dew at dawn.
“These animals can exploit even very small water resources,” Scarpitti said. “In Massachusetts, there are numerous small water sources that occur naturally, be it a pond or a stream or a creek.”
When natural water is limited, animals take advantage of the water that people inadvertently supply through sprinklers and hoses, Scarpitti said.
“Everyone waters their lawn and those animals aren’t stupid,” Scarpitti said. “They see water coming out.”
For Massachusetts residents who want to help small animals during the drought, Scarpitti said to avoid direct interaction with them. Instead, people should optimize their property’s natural habitat by planting a variety of plants and flowers for the animals to eat.
Rines said planting native species on one’s property is most beneficial to local birds and animals, as those plants are likely to survive a dry spell long enough to provide a livelihood. for animals. Conifers, nut-bearing trees and perennials are among the native plants important to birds, according to the Massachusetts Audubon Society website.
“If you have horticultural plants, you need to water them,” Rines said. “While you have native plants, they will tolerate a lack of water much better.”
Rines said residents can also help small animals weather the drought by leaving water for them in containers, and be careful to keep them clean, as summer heat can cause bacteria to brew in unwashed barrels.
“At least get rid of water,” Rines said. “It’s a wonderful way to not only benefit the birds and animals, but also to enjoy nature a little more.”
Katie Mogg can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on twitter @j0urnalistkatie