Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Hot weather crimps animal fertility in US Southwest

Environmental News Network: The hot, dry summer is making it difficult for plants and animals at Antelope Island State Park [in Utah], causing some of them not to reproduce. "The drought has had a huge impact out here on the island," said park naturalist Crystal Carpenter.

The lack of water has been particularly hard on bison, pronghorn antelope, bighorn sheep, mule deer and coyote that live on the island in Great Salt Lake. "The reproduction rate of the pronghorn and mule deer have really been hurt," Carpenter said. "They can't reproduce in these conditions. I've only seen one baby pronghorn this year."

The hot weather also affected the flower bloom in the spring. As a result, the main forage for many grazing animals has run out, and some animals are eating shrubs. "Many animals rely on the shrubs to get them through the winter," Carpenter said. "But because they are already eating them, some of the shrubs have died, making a high fire danger on the island."

Carpenter said several springs on the island have dried up, and others are running low. Springs on the island's north end are fine so far, she said. If the hot, dry weather continues, the park could supplement the water supply or sell some of the animals on the island, she said.

The National Weather Service said April was the third-driest on record. May and June were hot and dry, and July was the hottest month on record in Salt Lake City.

There have been 16 days with temperatures 100 degrees and above so far this year, making it the third-hottest year on record since 1928, said meteorologist Eric Schoening. The average year has six. The record was set in 1994 with 21 days above 100 degrees, and the second-highest was 2003 at 17 days. With about a month of summer to go, this year could become the second-hottest on record.

No comments: