Ongoing Drought Affecting Urban Wildlife

Short-lived species are at highest risk

From Texas Parks & Wildlife Department

Texans are seeing more wildlife in the city because of the ongoing drought, but it’s something of an urban myth that wild animals are coming to the city from the country in search of food and water.

“Actually, the animals people are seeing already live in the city,” says Texas Parks and Wildlife biologist John Davis. “No question, the drought is stressing wildlife, but a field mouse or rabbit that lives out in the country has no concept of cities or that they will find food or water if they go there. That’s a common thought process, but it’s more anthropomorphic than people realize.”

Still, the lack of water is definitely affecting the behavior of resident urban wildlife from deer and coyotes to raccoons and opossums. Even snakes and insects are affected. All are in search of scarce water and food.

“Animals that are normally nocturnal are being seen more during the day because they’re out looking for water or something to eat,” Davis says.

In considering the impact of an extended drought on wildlife, Davis says, the key is the overall population of a particular species.

“It’s easy to get caught up on individual animals and have a heart-felt desire to help them, but since it’s the weak who don’t survive, in the long run a drought strengthens a species’ population,” he says.

While most wildlife species will come out of the drought OK, Davis said he is worried about short-lived species that require rain to breed.

“The endangered Houston toad lives 2-3 years and only breeds after sufficient rain,” Davis says. “If a population of these toads doesn’t get rain at the right time, an entire year’s worth of breeding opportunity could be lost. This could drastically reduce the population.”

The drought also is affecting Texas’ birdlife, since summer is when birds are raising their young. The drought tends to drop insect numbers, which is not good for birds.

“In the summer,” Davis explains, “even seed-eaters feed their young insects for protein. When insects are harder to find, it’s hard on the birds. If you put out water and feed for birds, be aware that could attract other animals.”

Of course, many homeowners are finding insects from ants to scorpions, in their homes this summer. They’re looking for water, but again, they’re not coming from the country. “A scorpion, for instance, stays in the same local area all its life,” Davis says.

Snakes, including venomous varieties like the western diamond rattlesnake and copperheads, may be moving more in search of water or food, but they are not migrating to the city from rural areas.

“But people don’t need to panic,” Davis says. “If people watch where they put their hands and feet when they’re gardening or hiking, they can safely live alongside snakes of all kinds.”

One other impact the drought is having in some urban areas is suppressing a fungus that helps keep grasshoppers in check.

“Right now, Texas has a lot of grasshoppers,” Davis said. “And since food is hard to find, that’s a real treat for lizards, birds and mammals.”

If you do encounter a wild animal in the city, Davis went on, it’s best to just leave it alone, even if it appears distressed.

“It’s tough out there right now, especially if you’re a critter having to deal with a lack of water and food, but in the long run most populations will be stronger and tougher than before,” Davis says.

Recommended for You

Fishing How-To

Why You'll Lose Your Next Big Bass

Larry Larsen

Now that you know you might screw it up the next time a big fish bites, let's fix it.

Fishing How-To

Your Guide for the Best Catfish Baits

G&F Staff

If you've been catching catfish with the same method for years, it's time to change it up and...

Trout & Salmon

How to Catch the Biggest Trout in the Stream

David Paul Williams

Several factors need to be evaluated before reaching a conclusion about what fly, lure or...

See More Recommendations

Trending Stories


Catfish Night & Day: How to Catch 'Em Both Ways

Terry Madewell - April 04, 2018

Catfish tend to be found in shallower water at night, but they are still active during the...

Wild Game

10 Memorial Day Recipes for Your Outdoor BBQ Staff

Celebrate the start of summer with great food for your backyard BBQ or picnic with these...

Other Freshwater

5 Great Lures For Bluegills

Stephen D. Carpenteri - March 10, 2011

Who needs live bait when the big 'gills are so eager to strike these lures?

See More Stories

More Stories


Coyotes In Suburbia

Stephen D. Carpenteri - November 30, 2016

Once considered a denizen of the Western wilds, the coyote has learned to adapt to human


Guns & Loads for Long-Range Coyote Hunting

Stephen D. Carpenteri - December 13, 2015

Predator hunters living in more open areas are in a unique position to enjoy coyote hunting at...


Grandpa'™s Gun Tags Giant Buck, Ends Multi-Year Quest

Lynn Burkhead - November 21, 2017

Missouri hunter Tim Phillips is all smiles after using his late grandfather's worn Marlin...

See More Stories

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Temporary Price Reduction


Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services


GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.