24 Nov 2015
Many people are concerned about the fate of humans during natural disasters like hurricanes. There are many disaster relief programs that provide aid for people in times of need. For example, The American Red Cross provides resources like overnight shelters, relief item kits, health and mental health contacts, and meals. They also have Emergency Response Vehicles (ERV) that circulate affected areas to provide food, water, and other relief.1 There are government agencies in the US such as the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) that provide aid for humans, and many smaller local government and private organizations that help people prepare for and recover from natural disasters.2
But what happens to nonhuman animals? Most of the time, they are left behind. Both government and private organizations, including the Red Cross, generally refuse to help companion animals and force people to leave them behind when they are rescued. In some countries including the United States, the Red Cross does provide lists of local animal shelters, but animal shelters are usually filled to capacity even in normal times. In many places there are private groups that assist with medical care and relief for animals affected by flooding, and provide funds for food and veterinary assistance,3 but they can quickly run out of capacity, and they are not able to help in all instances, particularly in cases where urgent rescue is needed and people are forced to choose between being rescued in a dire situation and staying with their companion animals.
Dog rescue after hurricane, PBS Nature
In the United States, there have been recent changes to federal and state law for the better. After Hurricane Katrina struck in 2005, there were so many people who refused rescue because they didn’t want to leave their dogs and cats behind that federal law was changed to make provisions for FEMA to rescue and care for animals living in human households. Some states now have similar laws.4 This helps the animals, of course, but the reason for the change was to minimize the danger to human lives. In addition to benefitting from the FEMA provisions for companion animals, New York City has made recent progress in helping animals through a combination of local laws and coordination efforts among government, private animal organizations, and private citizens. When Hurricane Sandy struck the east coast of the United States in 2012, New York City mandated that all city shelters and public transit allow animals such as cats and dogs entrance.5 Some organizations were able to provide emergency boarding facilities for displaced animals thanks to some large donations from private citizens concerned about companion animals after the hurricane. In addition to providing shelter, the Animal League provided food, water, and medical treatment, and search and rescue teams for animals were implemented.6
Unfortunately, wild animals are commonly forgotten. It is easy to forget about them because they cannot ask for help. Humans don’t typically care about wild animals the way they care about companion animals like cats and dogs. Wild animals don’t live with humans or interact with them regularly. But even if we don’t have relationships with them, the important thing to remember is that they may be suffering and in need of help.
When disasters strike, wild animals face many challenges. Destruction of homes, accidents, injuries, separation from families, dislocation, health problems from changes in habitat, and death are all challenges they face, and usually without any help. Some examples include:
Oftentimes forest animals are hit the worst. Animals living in trees may survive the storm more often than small animals who dwell underground like rats, mice, and rabbits, who drown when theplaces where they liveare flooded. Small animals can be the most vulnerable to being carried off by the wind and slammed against the ground or against large objects like poles. Falling debris like tree branches can crush them, as in the case of this rabbit caught in Hurricane Sandy. Forest animals can hold on to tree branches or forage in dens built in them. However, young animals can be ripped from their nests by very strong winds.7 Animal rescue centers receive many stranded baby squirrels after hurricanes because of dislocated nests.
Food sources for wild animals also get damaged. Deers can find food that falls to the ground, such as the foliage, fruits, and seeds that get dispersed by the winds. However, the food supply created from the storm can rot, making it inedible. Winds can knock over trees, snap trunks and limbs, and strip trees of foliage and fruit seeds. Birds and other animals nest in trees, or depend on them for protection from predators.8
Water birds are heavily hit during major storms. Birds that live in the woods are better at holding onto branches when the wind strikes. Woodpeckers can find shelters in the holes they nest in. Shorebirds can move inland. Seabirds and waterfowl face the most open exposure. Birds are affected by wind dislocation. During hurricanes, the eye of the storm can trap birds inside a massive wall of wind until the storm dies down, at which point they may have been carried far from home.
Other marine and aquatic mammals
Hurricanes can cause massive waves and violent action on the water’s surface. Many fishes can be killed this way. Many animals such as dolphins, manatees, fishes, and small marine invertebrates can be blown ashore. Sea turtle nests can be swept up from the beach far out into the sea. Fishes can be electrocuted by electrical lines that fall into water.9 Dune and beach damage can destroy the homes of animals such as beach mice. There can also be destruction of food sources and shelters.10
Salinity and flooding
Salt water intrusion caused by hurricanes can push ocean water into freshwater habitats. High salinity in fresh habitats can kill animals like trouts. The reverse can also cause damage that harms animals. Heavy rains can cause freshwater water sources like rivers to flood saltwater lagoons. This can kill animals that need high salinity.
Why should we care?
We should be concerned about sentient animals because they can suffer. If you were in their position, wouldn’t you want to be helped? Most people would agree that the moral thing to do is to help humans after natural disasters. A smaller number, but perhaps still a majority, would include animals living in human homes. An even smaller number would extend this to include wild animals as well. But wild animals don’t suffer any less than domesticated animals or humans. If we are to reject speciesism, all animals should also be provided with assistance when we are able to give it.
What can be done for wild animals?
Some organizations have conservationist programs that aim at protecting wild animals in their natural habitats, but they are mainly concerned with preserving certain natural areas and view the animals who live in those areas as parts of nature. The focus should be on the interests of the sentient individuals who are harmed by the storm. There are some animal rescue organizations that also help wild animals, like Animal League. During Hurricane Ike in 2008, the Houston SPCA Wildlife Rehab & Education program took in animals like baby squirrels that were thrown from nests.11 Overall, however, the majority of organizations focus on helping animals living in human homes such as dogs and cats.
The importance of spreading concern
We don’t have the resources today to help nonhuman animals on a large scale, whenever they need help. But there are many things we could be doing now that aren’t being done in most places due to either a lack of awareness or a lack of will. We already know that many of them are viable, such as the efforts in New York City after Hurricane Sandy and existing programs that help rescue wild animals. You can help by spreading the word about the many ways nonhuman animals need our help, and about successful efforts that could be expanded and adopted in other places.
1 American Red Cross (2015) “Disaster relief”, redcross.org [accessed on 28 October 2015].
2 U. S. Department of Homeland Security (2015) “The disaster process & disaster aid programs”, fema.gov [accessed on 25 October 2015].
3 World Animal Protection (2015) “Helping animals and their owners affected by Hurricane Patricia in Mexico”, worldanimalprotection.org [accessed on 3 November 2015].
4 The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (2015) “What is the PETS act?”, ASPCA Professional [accessed on 3 November 2015].
5 Udell, C. (2012) “Hurricane Sandy and New York City’s pets”, Care2.com, 1 November [accessed on 4 November 2015].
6 North Shore Animal League America (2015) “Hurricane Sandy: Animal League America provides relief”, animalleague.org [accessed on 2 November 2015]. The Humane Society of the United States (2012) “Pet search and rescue after Hurricane Sandy”, humanesociety.org, November 2 [accessed on 2 November 2015].
7 Bryce, E. (2012) “Where do the wild animals go?”, New York Times, November 7 [accessed on 2 November 2015].
8 Coyle, K. (2011) “7 things to know about how hurricanes affect wildlife”, blog.nwf.org, 8/27/2011 [accessed on 3 November 2015].
9 Zielinski, S. (2015) “What happens to animals in a hurricane?”, ScienceNews, October 2 [accessed on 27 October 2015].
10 National Wildlife Federation (2015) “Hurricanes and wildlife”, nwf.org [accessed on 27 October 2015].
11 Houston Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (2008) “Updates from animal rescue central”, houstonspca.org [accessed on 29 October 2015].
What happens to wild animals in a hurricane? ›
They may retreat into nests, cavities, and other dwellings. Burrowing animals are often the best off, but can be susceptible to flooding. Depending on the force of the winds, nests can be torn from trees, and vegetation may fall upon or trap even the best hidden creatures. Marine animals fare little better.What happens to stray animals during a hurricane? ›
During and after a storm, some animals become disoriented and sometimes displaced. So wild animals can pose a danger. Strong, sometimes even weak storms will knock animals out of their homes, and into yours and the surrounding communities.What happens to birds and wildlife during a hurricane? ›
And hurricanes are renowned for blowing birds many miles off course, with rare seabirds and Caribbean birds found after landfall in the most unlikely places in our state. Some species will shelter in place, finding places for refuge or holding on to thick branches.What happens to animals during natural disasters? ›
When disasters hit, animals experience the same terrible effects as people: injury, starvation, thirst, displacement, illness and stress. We move fast to protect animals affected by earthquakes, floods, typhoons and other disasters. We provide food, water, medical care, and other emergency assistance to animals in need ...Where do the birds and animals go during a hurricane? ›
When bad weather hits, birds generally seek shelter from wind and rain in dense shrubs or thickets, next to heavy tree trunks, and on the downwind side of woods and forests. Cavity-nesting birds hunker down in nest boxes and natural cavities to ride out storms.What do they do with cows during hurricane? ›
“Most of the time cows, when there is high wind and rain, will put their butts to the rain,” she said. “They hunker down, become small and throw themselves to the ground.” Livestock owners who are leaving their cows in the field need to secure their fences, clear the field and cut any loose branches, Pinera said.What happens to cats during a hurricane? ›
Cats left inside a home can escape if the home is damaged by storms. If left to fend for themselves outside, they are likely to become victims of exposure, starvation, predators, contaminated food or water or accidents. Leaving cats outside during a disaster is a death sentence.What to do with feral cats during a hurricane? ›
Lay Mylar blankets inside the shelters for extra warmth. Put portable shelters, litter boxes, food and water in an accessible shed or garage during the storm. Stockpile adequate cat food, bottled water, extra batteries and flashlights and store them in a place that will be safe from the disaster.What happens to alligators during a hurricane? ›
“Alligators likely hunker down to weather a storm by finding easy to get in and out of places,” he adds. Some smaller gators may get swept away by hurricanes; others might change their foraging patterns altogether to stay safe. Other species may be less lucky.How do wild birds survive hurricanes? ›
Because many birds are so tiny, even tucking against the trunk of a tree can be good shelter from the worst wind, driving rain, or stinging snow. Birds will seek out hidden cavities or nestle under branches, brush, or other shelter to keep out of bad weather.
What happened to the animals during hurricane Katrina? ›
Some survived, but many succumbed to starvation. It is difficult to know the exact numbers, but the lack of preparation for Katrina appears to have resulted in the stranding of between 100,000 and 250,000 pets and the deaths of between 70,000 and 150,000.What do zoos do with animals during hurricane? ›
As the hurricane approaches, animals are moved into appropriate holding areas; smaller birds, mammals and reptiles may be housed in temporary kennels in main buildings, and larger animals bunker down in their normal indoor enclosures.How people and animals are affected by hurricanes? ›
Hurricanes can cause tree loss, and if enough damage is done, many nesting sites and food sources for birds and mammals are destroyed. Even if animals are able to escape injury from a hurricane, they are often forced into environments they are not used to, becoming disoriented.How do extreme weather events affect animals? ›
Extreme weather can kill animals directly — or indirectly, like by destroying food sources, contaminating water or altering habitat, forcing a species to move into areas where there may be more competition, fewer resources or a greater risk of predation.What happens to animals during floods? ›
Animals can suffer the effects of chemical burns, like dermatitis, conjunctivitis or hair loss, from toxic substances floating in the flood waters. Livestock that are in standing water for extended periods of time may experience foot/hoof problems. Watch for signs of infection, injury or lameness.Where do chickens go during a hurricane? ›
For Flocks Staying in Their Coops
Most coops are ideal for chickens during a storm. They're often elevated and do not have glass windows. As for ventilation, you will want to cover any larger open areas with a board, but keep some ventilation so your girls have fresh air.
What we do know is that animals react to environmental signals that come when weather changes. For example, extreme weather events like hurricanes cause large decreases in air and water pressure. Many animals can quickly sense these changes and will often behave strangely, flee or hide for safety.Where do deer go in a hurricane? ›
To mitigate the effects of the storm, deer increased movement rates and moved to higher elevations and areas of dense forested vegetation (i.e. pine forests and hardwood swamps), often leaving their home range to seek such areas.Where do farm animals go during a hurricane? ›
Most often they batten down the hatches, meaning animals cannot leave wherever they are being sheltered. There's no escape and no often high ground. Farm animals are considered disposable.What happens to horses during a hurricane? ›
Horses in Hurricanes
According to the Humane Society of the United States, all horses left behind should be "let out into a paddock or corral." "Include enough water (12 to 20 gallons per day per horse), hay, feed and medications for several days for each horse," the Humane Society said.
What do wild horses do during a hurricane? ›
"The wild horses are better equipped to handle a hurricane than most of us humans living on the Outer Banks," the Corolla Wild Horse Fund said in a Facebook post. "They go to high ground, under the sturdy live oak trees to ride the storm out."Do animals survive hurricanes? ›
Native plants and animals adapted over time to survive and recover from major weather events such as hurricanes and other strong storms. Wildlife typically has an instinct that tells when something is coming. When an animal senses this, it can find dense cover, fly out of harm's way or swim deeper to avoid storm surge.Why do people leave their dogs in hurricanes? ›
During the hash hurricane conditions, many pets fall victim to flooding, or have to leave their homes to escape rising water levels.How do hurricanes affect pets? ›
During a hurricane, your pet might be exposed to contaminated flood waters and diseases such as leptospirosis or respiratory diseases such as Bordetella. Make sure your pets are up to date on annual vaccinations—especially during hurricane season.Are stray cats safe during hurricane? ›
Feral and stray cats are especially vulnerable when severe storms like hurricanes or blizzards strike. High winds, torrential rains, floods or other hazardous conditions can put your cats' lives at risk.Can cats go back to being feral? ›
Over time, a stray cat can become feral as her contact with humans dwindles. A stray cat may be socialized enough to allow people to touch her, but she will become less socializedor even feralif she spends too much time without positive interaction with humans.Should you evacuate for a cat 1 hurricane? ›
Category 1 hurricane: 74-95 mph wind
That's the same strength as an EF1 tornado and it's going to cause damage to your home even if it's made of brick. Those high-speed, intense winds, are exactly why weather experts advise people in mobile homes to evacuate in a Category 1 storm.
Snakes often become displaced after a storm or flooding event. As a result, many of these animals are seeking shelter and food in areas close to people. These areas, out of the way of high water, include the inside of homes, storage sheds, barns and other buildings.What happens to sharks during a hurricane? ›
Sharks, whales, and other large animals swiftly move to calmer waters, however, and, generally speaking, are not overly affected by hurricanes.What happens to dolphins during a hurricane? ›
Some dolphins have been pushed by the strong waters of hurricanes into shallow lagoons or even into drainage channels where they need to be rescued, rehabilitated and released back into the ocean. Sharks and cetaceans are larger and more mobile than many other species, which don't have the option of leaving.
How do wild animals survive storms? ›
Most terrestrial animals do seek shelter. In nature, that can happen in tree or log holes, under rocks or leaves, or underground. Smaller animals like squirrels and mice will huddle together in such shelters, attempting to stay warm.Where do fish go during a hurricane? ›
Hurricanes can also cause fish to evacuate nearshore estuaries and coastal ocean environments towards deeper water. Nobody has studied whether storms influence fish in deeper water, but most people think they are mostly immune from storm effects.Where do rabbits go during a hurricane? ›
Raccoons, Foxes, Mice, Rabbits, and other small mammals: Mammals that live underground will hide in their dens. They construct dens so they will not flood, which lets wildlife shelter at home during a heavy storm.How did Hurricane Katrina turn pets into people? ›
That law, which impels rescue agencies to save pets as well as people during natural disasters, and the public outcry that inspired it, marked a turning point in our relationship with cats and dogs. No longer would we see them as pets or even companion animals. They had become members of society.Did alligators eat Katrina victims? ›
Dr. Louis Cataldie, the coroner in charge of recovering the bodies of Hurricane Katrina victims, says, of the 1,296 victims recovered so far, none showed evidence of alligator bites.What animals did Hurricane Katrina affect? ›
The lucky ones had some food and water; some were trapped inside and others were stranded on rooftops. During Katrina, former Washington Post photographer Carol Guzy captured a heartbreaking record of the abandoned animals, including dogs, cats, horses and even a pig.How does SeaWorld prepare for a hurricane? ›
Prior to the arrival of the hurricane, SeaWorld enacts established hurricane safety procedures and protocol for preparing the park, animals and personnel for severe weather. These procedures include closing the park early, storing and securing all loose items and providing safe housing for the animals.What happens to the animals at Tampa zoo during a hurricane? ›
Some of them, especially birds who live in open-air aviaries, are moved to safe locations around the zoo where they receive plenty of food, water and enrichment. And for some animals, remaining in their habitat is the safest and least stressful option.What did zoo animals do when the tsunami came? ›
Elephants screamed and ran for higher ground. Dogs refused to go outdoors. Flamingos abandoned their low-lying breeding areas. Zoo animals rushed into their shelters and could not be enticed to come back out.Do any organisms benefit from hurricanes? ›
But some other animals actually benefit from the tumult of a storm, National Geographic reports. Scavengers such as raccoons typically find new sources of food and occasionally deer can benefit when the ground is upturned by strong winds, bringing roots, shrubs and fresh grasses to the surfaces.
How do animals survive extreme temperatures? ›
Many (non polar) animals are ectotherms (ecto-outside) , which means that they generate so little heat internally they are dependent on the external environment to warm them up to a level where their body and enzymes function sufficiently well enough for an active and functional life.How are the animals able to survive in the extreme climate? ›
For warm-blooded animals that don't migrate, one way to survive the winter is to sleep through it. Hibernation is a great strategy that enables animals to conserve energy when food is scarce.What animals are affected by extreme weather? ›
The African elephant, Siberian tiger, chimpanzee, greater horseshoe bat, llama, vicuña and white rhinoceros are likely to survive heavy rainfall or prolonged drought. So too are the grizzly bear, American bison, klipspringer and Schreibers's bat.Where do animals go during tornado? ›
They Take Shelter
They can hide out in microhabitats such as thick underbrush or other vegetation. Woodpeckers and chickadees are among some of the birds that will find holes in trees while other animals seek refuge in cavernous rocks or nooks and crannies offered by man-made structures.
The immediate issues for livestock during and following floods often relate to trauma and exposure injury. However, other significant impacts on livestock can arise from infectious disease. Clostridial (mainly blackleg) and leptospiral (lepto) infections represent a risk after flooding.What happens to livestock in a flood? ›
Floods often drive livestock to seek shelter. They often become lost or end up in a neighbor's pasture. Restrict Access to Dangerous Areas: When necessary, move livestock to higher ground and deny access to floodprone pastures, barns and other structures.Where do alligators go during a hurricane? ›
“Alligators likely hunker down to weather a storm by finding easy to get in and out of places,” he adds. Some smaller gators may get swept away by hurricanes; others might change their foraging patterns altogether to stay safe. Other species may be less lucky.Can stray cats survive a hurricane? ›
Feral and stray cats are especially vulnerable when severe storms like hurricanes or blizzards strike. High winds, torrential rains, floods or other hazardous conditions can put your cats' lives at risk.What do dolphins do in a hurricane? ›
Seek Deeper Waters
Scientists believe they may react to the decrease in salinity that occurs in the ocean after large amounts of rain. Since a hurricane's rain bands typically occur several days in advance of the actual hurricane, dolphins have time to take precautions and seek refuge deep in the ocean.
Storm surges can cause manatees to go far inland to areas they would not normally inhabit, where they can become trapped when the water recedes. Even in areas that are typical manatee habitat, such as Tampa Bay, waters that recede to irregularly-low levels can also leave manatees stranded.
How can we help feral cats during hurricane? ›
Put portable shelters, litter boxes, food and water in an accessible shed or garage during the storm. Stockpile adequate cat food, bottled water, extra batteries and flashlights and store them in a place that will be safe from the disaster.How do feral cats survive snowstorms? ›
Feral cats seek out abandoned buildings, deserted cars, and even dig holes in the ground to keep warm in winter months (and cool during the summer heat).What happens to the fish during a hurricane? ›
Hurricanes are major forces of natural destruction. Freshwater flooding from rain or saline storm surge may trap fish in an inappropriate salinity. If this happens rapidly and the fish have no escape, species that are intolerant to changes in salinity may die.Can animals sense hurricanes? ›
What we do know is that animals react to environmental signals that come when weather changes. For example, extreme weather events like hurricanes cause large decreases in air and water pressure. Many animals can quickly sense these changes and will often behave strangely, flee or hide for safety.What effects do hurricanes have on animals? ›
Hurricanes can cause tree loss, and if enough damage is done, many nesting sites and food sources for birds and mammals are destroyed. Even if animals are able to escape injury from a hurricane, they are often forced into environments they are not used to, becoming disoriented.Where do animals go when it storms? ›
Most terrestrial animals do seek shelter. In nature, that can happen in tree or log holes, under rocks or leaves, or underground. Smaller animals like squirrels and mice will huddle together in such shelters, attempting to stay warm.