You’re not the only one who has to figure out how to beat the heat. Wild animals also struggle to cope with heat waves and droughts.
Take, for instance, the tiny hedgehog. During England’s recent intense heat wave, the hedgehogs were struggling to stay alive, particularly the babies. They needed water, and there was none to be had.
Luckily, concerned citizens stepped up and made sure hedgehogs had water. It’s simple actions that make the difference, and here are some you can take to help wildlife in your area.
Keep the water flowing
First and foremost is making sure wild critters have enough water and easy access to it. As the National Wildlife Federation (NWF) explains, “Having convenient supplies of clean water can make a huge difference to the survival of local wild species such as birds, butterflies and small mammals, during times of extreme heat and drought.”
This is especially true for small animals that may not have a wide range, or for animals that are more mobile but become dehydrated.
Keeping the water going in your yard won’t require you to keep the hose on, either. Instead, make sure there’s a birdbath in your yard and that the water is clean and fresh. (If you don’t have a birdbath, consider getting one.) The NWF recommends setting up a drip jug near the birdbath, something that will allow water to fall into the birdbath. The watery ploink will attract birds to the water. Once there, they’ll drink and cool off.
Of course, not all animals can get to a birdbath, nor do you necessarily want certain animals to be near the birdbath. (Looking at you, cats.) For smaller critters, like those previously mentioned hedgehogs, providing small, shallow bowls of water isthe best way to make sure they get the hydration they need. If you don’t have any small bowls, then the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) recommendsplacing a stick or stone in a bigger bowl so that the animal can climb its way out of the bowl after it has quenched its thirst.
The inclination to leave food out for the critters is understandable, but experts discourage it. The NWF says water is more important to the animals’ overall survival — they can get by without food for a bit, but not water — and the RSPCA advises against feeding wildlife.
If you have a garden, then maintaining it will help critters and insects alike. An especially lush garden can provide shade that some animals may crave, and covering your beds with mulch will also help the soil stay a bit moist, and that will help worms and other insects. Water, of course, plays a part in this, and keeping your plants watered will attract insects that rely on the plants for food.
Helping wildlife with heat stress
In addition to needing water, animals may require some assistance with heat stress. Animals get overheated and dehydrated, the same as we do, and they manifest some of the same symptoms, including confusion, a loss of balance and collapsing. If you see animals that are normally in the trees on the ground, or if they’re normally nocturnal and you see them during the day, chances are something is wrong.
Aiding wild animals suffering from heat stress can be tricky, and if you don’t feel comfortable or safe doing so, don’t. Contact animal services or veterinarians instead.
If you do feel comfortable, however, the RSPCA recommends wrapping the animal in a towel and containing it in a cardboard box. Provide the animal with water to drink in a cool, safe area. Dampening the towel or spritzing the animal with mist can also help cool down the critter. Seeking the assistance of professionals, however, is still recommended since human interactions can be stressful for animals. Should you need to transport the animal to a clinic, cool down the car first and minimize the noises inside the car.
And if you’re harmed while helping an animal, seek medical assistance as soon as possible.