Record Arizona heat did not result in wildlife “die-off”

Encounters with humans increased
Extreme heat's impact can be tough on desert animals and this summer was particularly tough.
Published: Oct. 13, 2023 at 5:14 PM MST
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PHOENIX, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) - According to the state’s top biologist, Desert wildlife displayed amazing resilience during Arizona’s record summer heat. “The heat itself is not going to cause population die-offs, like a total lack of food from drought will,” said Jim Heffelfinger, the wildlife science coordinator for the Arizona Game and Fish Department.

Heffelfinger says the state did see a die-off two years ago, during the drought of 2021. “We did see a population decline,” said Heffelfinger.

This year, although the temperatures reached record highs for a record number of days, the drought was not as bad as it was in 2021. That means there was more food for animals, and they could adapt their behaviors to avoid the hottest parts of the day.

The Game and Fish Department’s efforts to take water to the driest parts of the deserts and mountains also helped spread out the wildlife populations. “Those extra water sources, natural and manmade, are critical for wildlife,” said Heffelfinger.

According to AZ Game and Fish stats, there was an uptick in mountain lion and bear attacks this year. Two of each were reported. One of the bear attacks was fatal. The last bear attack was reported in 2018, and the last mountain lion attack was reported in 2019. “There’s a higher probability of conflict with humans around the urban interface when things are so dry,” said Heffelfinger.

You can donate water to Arizona’s wildlife through AZ Game and Fish here.

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