Fewer frogs, dehydrated squirrels: How wildlife is suffering from climate change | hessenschau.de

Due to climate change, spring is becoming more and more dry. This is not only a problem for forests and other plants, but also has serious implications for the local wildlife.

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Natural forest in Rheingau Taunus


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What pleases sun seekers is a disaster for nature: March 2022 has recorded history as the brightest and driest for more than 70 years. Scientists have noticed for some time that spring is generally getting less rain – they call this phenomenon “early summer drought”.

This drought has consequences not only for the vegetation, which then develops naturally and begins the process of photosynthesis. Newly planted trees cannot grow, large trees die, and the risk of wildfires increases. Indigenous animal species are also feeling the effects of more heat and less precipitation, like the ornithologist: On the one hand, bird migration is changing, and on the other, available food, reports Jochen Judt, a forester at the University of Kassel.

Barely frogs migrate

Many of the so-called short-distance migrants, such as the tits, stay here in the winter or return early from their winter residence. This gives them an advantage over those that fly south – like Redstart. When you return, many of the breeding grounds are already occupied. If there is no rain in the spring, the food supply of many bird species at the same time shrinks: if the ponds or streams contain little water, neither mosquito larvae nor frogs can develop.

Hesian State Agency for Nature Conservation, Environment and Geology (HLNUG) in Giessen once again recorded a barely imperceptible migration of frogs this year – in the spring they usually go to water bodies to spawn. The climatic conditions of many previous years, which were not very favorable for amphibians, are continuing, says Michael Gunman, an expert at HLNUG. Precipitation and soil moisture are very low.

Deer can become a problem in and of itself

On the other hand, the original game can (and still) adapt well to drought in general and climate change in particular, says forest scientist Godt. “The red deer is not tied to one location and can move to other areas and search for water if necessary.”

Closeup squirrel sitting on the forest floor, meadow

On the other hand, with smaller roe deer, the situation is different – and this can become a problem in itself, because it moves only within a certain radius: “As soon as it rains and the plants sprout, they gobble up everything green in their area.”

Trees will be threatened by lack of water, bark beetles, and gametes. This is fatal for large open spaces that have sprung up as the spruce died out in recent years from drought, says Good. Close coordination between forest owners, hunters and scientists is desirable here.

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Roe and red deer

Depending on the size, the deer and the red deer can be easily distinguished. With a shoulder height of up to 150 cm, the red deer is much larger than the deer by about 75 to 90 cm. Red deer weigh about 250 kilograms, while deer weigh only 16-20 kilograms.

Meanwhile, the Hesse State Hunting Association pointed to another man-made problem: the red deer could no longer move very far through Hesse, as many areas were cut off by motorways. Meanwhile, this had a fatal effect on the genes and thus the health of red deer.

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Hedgehogs and squirrels are active very early

With smaller wild animals, he repeatedly received reports that the piglets became dehydrated and thus died, says Godt. Wildlife sanctuaries confirm this, as at the beginning of spring more and more exhausted hedgehogs or squirrels were brought in, according to the Schäfer Wildlife Organization in Offenbach. The animals were already active due to the early heat, although the food supply was not yet sufficient and the water points dried up. Female squirrels had little milk to raise offspring due to lack of water.

In the summer, dehydrated swallows and swallows often have to be fed, reports the Wetterau animal shelter in Bad Nauheim, which is responsible for infected wild animals in the area: “But more and more individuals are now setting up water ponds in the garden, which It at least defuses this problem.” In the particularly dry summer months, hunters and forest owners bring large drinking troughs into the forest to help game there as well, reports Marcus Stifter, a spokesperson for the Hess State Hunting Association.

‘It is impossible to adapt evolutionarily’

In general, problems with native animal species will only get worse in the coming years, predicts scientist Jochen Godt. Biodiversity will decrease. The biggest losers are “specialists” or “endemic species” that only occur in a particular ecological niche or region. But it applies to everyone: “The pace of climate change makes it impossible for nature to adapt evolutionarily.”

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What do you do with an infected wild animal?

The German Animal Welfare Association recommends removing an existing animal first from a safe distance Watch, to make sure that the animal is really in danger. If this is indeed the case, your local Humane Society or local vet can provide first aid. An overview of the offers of rescue stations across Germany wildtierschutz-deutschland.de.

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