Winter of snow and drought
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, April 1996:
Severe swings in winter weather,
believed to be symptomatic of global warming,
hit animals hard around the world.
Near Bascones del Agua, in northern
Spain, more than 4,000 pigs drowned two days
after Christmas when a river overflowing with
snowmelt from the Pyranees mountains trapped
them in their barn.
At the same time, tropical fish farmers
in Hillsborough County, Florida, lost fish by the
ton to a sudden cold snap. The U.S. tropical fish
industry centers on Florida, and about 150 of
Florida’s 184 tropical fish farms are in
Hillsborough County, previously noted for climatic
February brought flooding along the
Olifants River, in northern South Africa, near
Kruger National Park, obliging the helicopter
evacuation of baboons, warthogs, jackals, civets,
and monkeys from the Animal Rehabilation
Center. Lions, rescue coordinator Jenny Lodge
on Valentine’s Day, had already made their own
way to high ground.
Flooding also hit the Pacific Northwest
in early February, for the second year in a row.
Northern California, bearing the brunt last year,
had only mild flooding this time, but at least
1,200 cattle reportedly drowned near Tillamook,
Oregon, while the Greenhill Humane Society rescued
more than 30 horses from flooded areas
Outgoing Multinomah County animal
control director Dave Flagler, recently named animal
control director for Fairfax County, Virginia,
left on a high note, having prepared in advance
for natural disaster.
“It gave us a chance to show our stuff,”
Flagler told ANIMAL PEOPLE. “During the
first 24 hours I was at the Emergency
Communications Center coordinating our
response with that of other disaster teams. We
were working primarily with the Red Cross in
organizing relief shelters for people and their pets.
The American Humane Association and the
Humane Society of the U.S. sent teams to assist.
During the flurry of activity we lost our telephone
service. Thanks to our close cooperative relationship
with the Oregon Humane society, we moved
our dispatch operations to their shelter.”
The rain turned to snow farther north,
where the British Columbia Ministry of the
Environment reported that deer and bison, just
entering their calving season after a harsh midwinter,
were at risk of starving. Some newborn animals
were said to be suffocating in drifts. The
Ministry of Transportation and Highways teamed
with the Wildlife Protection Branch to clear roads
and convoy hay into feeding stations in some of
the hardest hit areas.
A bill to appropriate $1.25 million for
deer-feeding stalled in the Minnesota legislature
when the Minnesota Deer Hunters Association
argued that the money should come from general
funds rather than a surcharge on hunting permits.
In Wisconsin, where the deer population
has reportedly grown 50% in two years, winter
losses of 20% to 30% were expected.
Deer also starved in the overpopulated
Cuyahoga Valley National Recreation Area. The
Ohio Department of Wildlife has heavily pushed
hunting in surrounding areas, but the 18,000-acre
park is off limits. Critics charge that the cull
hunts have only encouraged deer reproduction, by
failing to rectify a herd balance skewed toward
adult females and by making more forage available
to them through the winter, encouraging
them to bear twins. Of the 17 deer known to have
starved to death, 16 were yearlings.
But the worst weather hit China during
the last week in February. Temperatures as cold
as 40 degrees below zero Fahrenheit killed more
than 700,000 cattle and yak, according to the
British Broadcasting Corporation, leaving about
80,000 people without their livelihood.
Five states of northern Mexico on
March 22 marked their thousandth consecutive
day without rain. The drought killed an estimated
300,000 cattle in 1995, from a herd of 6.3 million
at the beginning of 1994, now numbering only