News

Drought affects wildlife on first day of spring

Normaly life cycles of newts, mammals impacted

The sunny, warm weather may be a pleasure for humans, but it is showing signs of negatively impacting local wildlife, a Midpeninsula Open Space District biologist said.

The current drought, which is one of the most severe in California history, has left breeding ponds for amphibians dry and could upset the life cycles of animals from frogs to deer, Cindy Roessler said.

Rain from recent storms only began to fill a pond on district land in the Santa Cruz Mountains in Palo Alto, and although she observed newts and frogs clamoring to lay eggs, many native animals may not come out of their burrows, missing a year of reproduction, she said.

"Some amphibians won't be able to reproduce. They need several months of water. There won't be a pond to reproduce in if there is no more rain," she said.

The effects are more than hypothetical. Newts that came out of their burrows after the second big rain emerged in late February, three months later than normal.

"For weeks they looked really skinny. You could see the vertebrae on their backs sticking up," Roessler said.

Last week, while out checking ponds in the area, Roessler was pleased to see fat newts in reproduction mode. But amphibian eggs, including those of frogs that currently line the pond, must hatch into tadpoles. They are at risk of dying if the ponds dry up too soon, she said.

Some mammals also seem affected, she said. The black-tailed deer have unusually thin coats. The deer change their coats twice a year, from reddish in summer to bluish in fall and winter.

"In spring the change starts at one end of the body to the other end. But they look bare -- even the yearlings. There's not much on their hips," Roessler said.

Roessler said she doesn't know what is causing the change, but speculated it could be the warm temperatures or nutritional deficiencies. Perennial plants deer depend on might not be growing fast enough to produce adequate forage, she said.

Comments

 +   Like this comment
Posted by Aw Gua
a resident of Bailey Park
on Mar 20, 2014 at 11:11 am

You can tell its an issue for the critters. My backyard birdbath has become increasingly popular as a watering hole for any/every animal that is in the area. Seems every time I look out my window, one animal or another is drinking the water.

Those guys are lucky to have water supplies from suburban uses. The animals in more wild areas have got to be hurting.
My favorite hidden pond in Steven's Canyon has been very sad my last 3 visits.
Its going to be an unavoidably tough Summer for critters.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Mr Adviceo
a resident of Bailey Park
on Mar 20, 2014 at 2:48 pm

In the last 500 years there has been several periods of drought, you can prove this by reading the rings of old growth timber. Just be mindful of water usage, this will come to pass.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by @ mr Adviceo
a resident of Monta Loma
on Mar 20, 2014 at 4:07 pm

So correct, just like global warming and global cooling.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Member
a resident of another community
on Mar 20, 2014 at 6:58 pm

Sadly, the course of current global warming is not at all likely to resolve itself with a period of global cooling as anonymous from Mont Loma would have us believe - unless we all act together to take some serious corrective actions. The science is not in dispute. It's wishful thinking to assume the current situation is self-correcting.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by @ member
a resident of Monta Loma
on Mar 21, 2014 at 12:03 pm

@Member, show use your scientific facts. Yeah, you don't have anything. Where as mother nature has been doing this for millennia. But go ahead and spread your fears.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by UC Davis Grad
a resident of Cuernavaca
on Mar 21, 2014 at 3:55 pm

@ member: You should be the one providing proof that global warming does NOT exist, instead of being a troll here.

Oh wait, you don't have any evidence...


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Mr. Knowing, Stanford Grad
a resident of another community
on Mar 22, 2014 at 7:55 am

Global warming is a fiction thought up by profiteers.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by UC Davis Grad
a resident of Cuernavaca
on Mar 22, 2014 at 3:45 pm

@Mr. Knowing, Stanford Grad: YOU went to Stanford?

Yeah, right. Stop being a troll.


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