Over the past few weeks, the Eastern Shore has been battered by frigid temperatures, snow, ice, and wind. As a human, it is absolutely treacherous outside! But what about the animals?
Most native species of animals to Maryland are fairing just fine. They have adapted to withstand the cold winters. Mammals have fur and dens, Birds have feathers, and Reptiles retreat to their hibernacula. But what about the animals that aren’t used to these arctic airs?
Florida, Texas, and other southern states are experiencing drastic temperature differences this winter. Florida recently saw its first measurable amount of snow in years. But wait, isn’t it supposed to be warm all year long?! While it’s true that Florida does tend to stay warmer due to being closer to the equator, it can still have cold snaps. Normally a few days of cold don’t hurt, but with this winter storm, there are many animals that are finding it hard to cope. Iguanas have been observed falling out of trees due to being so cold that their muscles tense up. Unless they fall from a substantial height, these guys will be fine once they warm up again in the sun. But, freezing Iguanas may be a good thing…! Green Iguanas are actually an invasive species in Florida, same as Burmese Pythons (which also don’t fair well in the cold). When cold snaps occur, it actually makes it easier for invasive reptiles to be collected and humanely euthanized. Mother Nature’s way of controlling the mess-ups that people have created.
Of course, native animals also get caught up in the cold. Texas Game Wardens recently rescued over 150 sea turtles that were stunned by the cold weather. They were taken to the Sea Center to warm up and receive any needed care and then will be released back into the bay. But should humans interfere? It is nature, isn’t it? Yes, and no. We are currently in the 6th Mass Extinction. The only difference between this one and the previous 5 is that humans are the ones responsible. While we may have entered a 6th mass extinction eventually, we have caused the acceleration of it. We pollute, we burn fossil fuels, and we over-consume. The Earth cannot keep up with how fast humans are populating – we are the worlds worst invasive specie. I remember the day my Wildlife Conservation professor taught an entire lesson on this…most of us in the class were tearing up and felt utterly defeated…we were going into a profession that we could do nothing for. The next class though, he gave us examples of all the positive events that wildlife conservationists have succeeded at. It’s a battle…it has been a battle, and will continue to be a battle…but the important thing is that there are those willing to go into the battle.
The arctic blast may be coming to an end…at least for this week…but are you ready for the heat wave this summer? Climate change isn’t the weather, it is the change in the usual weather found in a certain place. So while it may not be “hot” this winter, overall, the earth is experiencing a warming trend. Also, different areas are experiencing drastic different weather patterns…the East is in a deep freeze while the West is on fire. Again we come to the conundrum of “well there really isn’t anything I can do…” Sure there is! As cliche as it sounds, the little things do add up. Start recycling, eat sustainably, conserve energy; the possibilities are endless. Again, it’s just being willing to go into the battle.