The current heat wave and drought are killing wild animals in Ellis County.
A local licensed wildlife rehabilitator is urgently asking Ellis County residents to set out water for wild animals.
Kathy Rogers with the Rogers Wildlife Rehabilitation Center in Hutchins, Texas says intense summer heat coupled with current drought conditions in Waxahachie as elsewhere in Ellis County and throughout North Texas are affecting inestimable numbers of wild animals, from birds and insects to mammals, reptiles and amphibians.
“This is horrible. It’s hot every summer, but it’s not this hot for this long,” says Kathy, who’s rehabilitated wild birds at the center for more than 30 years. “These animals just can’t take this and especially the migratory birds are just really suffering because they’re not used to this. And they are trying to get out of here, and they can’t because they’re just too hot. I mean, even the lizards are coming out for water. It’s awful.”
Since mid-June, the center has received about 100 birds every day suffering from heat exhaustion and dehydration. Giving the birds a break from the incessant heat and plenty of access to water has been nonstop activity at the center for several weeks now. Kathy advises anyone who sees a bird on the ground and showing signs of being listless, uncoordinated and altogether in poor shape to bring it in for rehabilitation. Even better is to help birds from getting to the point of desperation in the first place.
Placing a shallow dish of water outside, on the ground and in the shade is perhaps one of the single most compassionate works that a person can do right now. Adding ice cubes and refilling the water daily is even better, she says.
“There’s so little water for them to access that anything that you could put out is a lifesaver — is absolutely a lifesaver,” she says. “These poor critters are dehydrating very quickly. And with this heat, it’s just pitiful. But make sure the receptacle that you’re putting out in is fairly shallow. And if you use something deeper, angle a stick or something in it so that if something gets in there that can’t get out, it has a way to at least grip onto something and get out.”
Kathy adds that bird baths are good for birds, and placing water sources on the ground can help both birds and armadillos, opossums, squirrels, toads and other ground level animals. Shallow bowls, pet dishes, short food-safe plastic tubs — anything that provides water to a depth of no more than two inches is suitable for helping wildlife.
She also urges anyone who provides water to remain consistent and check often to ensure that the water doesn’t run dry, especially in the morning as crepuscular creatures who forage at dusk and dawn are likely to drink the water source dry.
For birds who’ve not found water in time, Kathy says they’re easy to recognize and they need a little human kindness as quickly as possible.
“They’re just standing out in the yard in the sun — just standing. And then the next thing is they drop over. I mean, it’s just pitiful,” she says. “They’re listless, or they’re just kind of staring off into space. In the case of birds, which is what I will address because that’s what I do, if it’s on the ground, you need to pick it up because it’s not going to make it. The ants get it. The flies lay eggs on them, and then they turn into maggots. And the heat, obviously and other predators [will get to it]. So if it’s a bird on the ground, pick it up. If they’re on the ground, there’s problem.”
According to the National Integrated Drought Information System drought monitor, 83% of Ellis County is experiencing level D3 extreme drought, including Waxahachie. The remaining percentage of the county is by no means doing a whole lot better — it’s just that it’s in Level D2 severe drought. Throughout Ellis County, 2022 is shaping up to be the 9th driest year on record for the last 128 years, with excessive heat warnings by the National Weather Service showing no signs of letting up. Tarrant County too has about 95% of its area designated as under severe drought. Most of Dallas County is experiencing moderate drought. 100% of Navarro County is designated as under severe to extreme drought.
Statewide, 84% of Texas is having a Level 2 severe drought, with 20% of the state at the highest level of drought, designated as level D4 exceptional drought — a level that indicates the greatest risk to agriculture, wildlife, tourism and economic health.