Drought causing food shortage for animals
The ongoing drought is causing severe problems for wildlife in the Netherlands. Mammals’ watering holes are drying up, small animals struggle to get food, and birds can’t get through the bone-dry ground with their beaks, animal organizations said to NU.nl.
Europe is in the midst of its worst drought in 500 years. There’s been little to no rain in the past months, and meteorologists don’t see that changing soon, according to the newspaper. “And that while many drinking places for mammals have already disappeared,” Elze Polman of the Mammal Association said.
Deer and boars have to travel longer distances to find water and possibly have to cross more roads. In the north of the country, the dry pounds and wetlands pose significant difficulties for the northern vole and the ermine. “And you can’t just help these wild animals,” Polman said.
The drought also means food scarcity for smaller animals. Common food sources like earthworms burrow deeper into the ground to avoid drying out, resulting in small mammals being unable to get to them. Badgers, for example, have to search longer for their evening meal. So they set out earlier and run a greater risk of getting hit by a car in the evening rush hour.
Hedgehogs are also in trouble. The hedgehog shelter in Papendrecht is much busier than usual, and the animals taken in have lost more than half their normal weight. They’re also finding many abandoned young. “No food means no milk for the young, and they get rejected,” caretaker Ferry van Jaarsveld said to the newspaper.
This is also a big problem for many birds, including blackbirds and other thrush-like birds, Marc Scheurkogel of Vogelbescherming said. The drought has hardened the topsoil, making it difficult for tiny beaks to get through.
Swallows face an entirely different problem, Scheurkogel said. “They make nests of mud, but that is more difficult if the ground is bone dry. The result is that their nests fall apart more quickly.”
Netherlands residents who want to help these struggling animals can do so by wetting part of their gardens so that insects crawl to the topsoil. They can also leave out a small bowl of water or some fruit, the two experts said to NU.nl.