Wildlife can beat the heat
WILLMAR -- Complain about the 90- to 100-degree weather all you want. Moan about the heat index that reaches 115 degrees. At least you have a nice, air-conditioned house set at about 75 degrees to come home to. Or even a quick blast of cold air f...
WILLMAR -- Complain about the 90- to 100-degree weather all you want. Moan about the heat index that reaches 115 degrees.
At least you have a nice, air-conditioned house set at about 75 degrees to come home to. Or even a quick blast of cold air from your car as you drive home from work.
You'll survive this latest Upper Midwest inferno, but how does it affect other creatures?
You'd be surprised to find out the pheasants, deer and fish can tolerate the heat sometimes better than we can.
"It's really not hurting anything right now," said Jeff Miller at the Department of Natural Resources' Wildlife Office in Willmar. "It will be all right for wetlands right now to dry out as long as they will fill in the spring."
Mammals have existed thousands of years through blizzards, thunderstorms and heat waves, so putting up with the summer of 2006 is just a speck on a very large calendar.
Miller said birds and mammals react to the change in weather rather quickly. As the spring wetlands dry up, they migrate to more permanent bodies of water and vegetation.
Speaking of vegetation, some of the things most in jeopardy are the new plantings for re-establishing native grasses and plants.
"Every thing that's plant material needs the rain," Miller said. " The new seedlings that were planted are struggling."
Fish have the same survival instincts when it comes to the heat, according Bruce Gilbertson, DNR Fisheries manager in Spicer.
"It doesn't mean fish can't become trapped or die from some localize summer kill situation. They've survived for over 10,000 years," he said. "This isn't the first summer where we've had this kind of weather. They realize they need to move to deeper pools. When the water levels return, they're pretty quick to re-establish themselves."
Gilbertson said water levels have declined, but not at an alarming rate. It's neither good nor bad fishing at the moment.
"So far, I think that our lakes are holding up pretty well. The groundwater flow we had earlier in the year helped. They are relatively close to normal. What happens between now and fall will determine if we'll have a problem," he said. "We have not had any reported fish kills. Water levels on streams are low. There is some base flow in larger streams. Smaller fish will move into pools and find temporary refuges, but they become more vulnerable to herons and raccoons."
Fish kill doesn't occur because the fish boil in too shallow of water. It all has to do with the amount of oxygen the water can hold.
"As the water temperature increases, its ability to hold dissolved oxygen declines. In some of the shallows lakes or bays, vegetation -- rooted or algae -- during the day is producing oxygen, which good for levels," Gilbertson added.
"But at night, those same plants are using oxygen, which fish and different invertebrates use. When its hot at night, that's a situation for potential fish kill."
Unfortunately, we won't see any of the heat-related effects on fish and wildlife for a few years.
"A lot of things related to fisheries can be longer-term things," Gilbertson said. "For many of our game fish, like walleye, it's typically three years before they come of interest to anglers. We could lose a lot of this year's production and you wouldn't notice it for a couple of years."