Q&AZ: How is the extreme heat affecting Arizona wildlife?

By Andrea Barrios
Published: Monday, August 21, 2023 - 7:20am

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Coyotes are being seen in urban area
Chad Snow

The effects of this summer's record-setting heat on humans and plants have been well-documented. There have been reports of shoes melting, saguaros falling and other plants withering in the heat.

Through our Q&AZ reporting project, a listener asked: How are wildlife surviving in Arizona this summer?

Arizona native animals tend to have a system in place to be able to survive these hot summers.

Some dig burrows at least 18 inches deep, which provides a place for them to rest that is substantially cooler than the surface above them.

"During extreme heat, they tend to estivate, you can think of that as hibernation," said Jeff Meyers, the wildlife viewing program manager for Arizona Game and Fish Department. "They tend to sort of power down, so to speak.”

Quail using the catchment water system
The Arizona Department of Game and Fish

With increasing heat, there are more animals that enter urban areas looking for food, water and shelter. This year's combination of extreme heat waves and extreme drought conditions made it worse.

Overnight lows that were well above normal "can be even more devastating than record high temperatures because it doesn't ever give a reprieve from the heat," he said.

Game and Fish operates the Water for Wildlife program, a catchment system that captures rainwater and stores it as a place for wildlife to hydrate even on the driest days. Though with the drought, the department has had to use trucks or helicopters to manually refill the catchments. 

Game and Fish officials say to never approach wildlife or put water or food outside your home. The more they are encouraged to be in urban areas, the more dangerous the situation can be for both the animals and for humans. If you are ever in a situation you consider dangerous with wildlife, you can contact the department.

Helicopter refilling the catchment system
The Arizona Department of Game and Fish

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