The Epic American Drought And Wildlife

What’s happening across the Western United States is frightening.

As a wildlife conservationist, seeing the words “significant drought” over 1/3 of the Mountain West is beyond concerning. “Significant” is the designation above extreme.

It’s like the Spinal Tap amplifier that goes to 11 instead of 10.

Most of the rest of that region is in extreme drought with everything else in some level of drought conditions even after a monsoon season that provided rain to some areas in southern New Mexico and Arizona.

The Nevada Department of Wildlife has been dropping water to guzzlers in the desert to ensure desert bighorn sheep have water. We covered that here.

Without it, many of these sheep and other wildlife would die.

(Photo Courtesy Nevada Department of Wildlife)

Now wildlife officials in Utah are looking to drop water in guzzlers at Antelope Island State Park in Utah’s Great Salt Lake as fresh water sources in the higher elevations preferred by the sheep are drying up.

Arizona, one of the nation’s driest states, has been hauling water during droughts for years will haul more than three million gallons in 2021. There saguaro cactus is beginning to die-off which will have a ripple effect on wildlife.

This drought is reflected in big way in wildfires.

According to the National Interagency Fire Center, 4,384,403 acres have burned so far in 2021. That’s compared to 2,919,926 acres in 2020 and we still have a couple of months of fire season.

A wildfire in New Mexico. (Photo US Forest Service)

We’re even starting to see some health issues with wildlife. An example is in Washington where 38 deer in Washington have tested positive for deadly blue-tongue. That state has been one of the hardest hit, especially in the area of temperature.

Some will argue, these are natural cycles and wildlife will just have to deal with it.

That’s a lame way of looking at things.

The wildscapes of our nation are anything but natural. We have dammed rivers, cut off travel corridors, restricted natural fire which makes healthier forest and breeds these super fires that are blazing right now and developed many of the best riparian areas.

That means we have a responsibility to aid wildlife when things we can’t control like temperature make a negative impact.

At the Wild Sheep Foundation’s (WSF) 13th Chapter and Affiliate (C&A) Summit in Lewistown, Idaho (June 25 & 26), a hat was passed to raise money to bring water to drought-stressed desert bighorn sheep herds in southern Nevada. 

A mature desert bighorn ram visiting a guzzler in southern Nevada. (Photo Courtesy Nevada Department of Wildlife)

By the end of the C&A Summit according to WSF’s Keith Balfourd, eighty-two thousand dollars was raised.

This figure is now up to an incredible $182,000 from generous WSF chapters, affiliates, and individual WSF members.

That is difference-making money in the drought stricken Nevada desert and shows the kind of efforts we will have to make if this drought persists.

Forecasts shows this drought continuing until at least late fall.

We will continue our coverage and let you know where you can help in this situation.

In the meantime, let’s pray for rain and creative strategies to help wildlife in a trying time.

Chester Moore

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One thought on “The Epic American Drought And Wildlife”

  1. Great article. I didn’t realize the extent of the drought conditions across the western states

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