Amidst soaring temperatures in southern British Columbia, the Wildlife Rescue Association of BC has issued a warning about the dangers faced by animals. Kimberly Stephens, the organization’s hospital manager, has witnessed an increase in calls and admissions of animals suffering from extreme heat. Some animals have experienced heat exhaustion, while others have been displaced by wildfires or have had their food and water sources depleted due to the prolonged drought.
Stephens explains that as a result, animals often come into conflict with domestic pets, vehicles, and humans. Although coastal areas are expected to return to more seasonal temperatures soon, the central and southern regions will continue to endure the heat for a few more days.
To mitigate the risks, Stephens advises people to provide shallow water dishes for animals, enabling them to drink without the risk of drowning. However, leaving out food is not recommended. Different animal species respond differently to environmental changes, with some being more sensitive than others. For example, bats are particularly susceptible to heat stress, which significantly lowers their chances of survival when their bodies reach a certain temperature.
The extreme heat and drought also have secondary effects on wildlife, as many bird and bat species rely on insects as their main food source. With a decrease in insect populations due to the heat and drought, the well-being of these species is adversely affected.
Approximately 80% of the province is currently experiencing Level 4 or 5 drought conditions. Wildfires have also forced wildlife into new environments, leading to competition with other animals who have already established their territories there. Climate change is undoubtedly impacting wildlife, forcing them to adapt to new temperatures, resources, and habitats.
As of now, there are 370 wildfires burning in British Columbia, with 145 classified as out of control and 11 considered fires of note, which means they pose a high threat to people and property.