California's Severe Drought Brings Wildlife Into Backyards as Animals Search for Water

The chapped landscapes of California are forcing wildlife into backyards as animals expand their hunt for water to drink.

As reports of sightings rise in the parched state's fourth consecutive dry year, wildlife hospitals say they are seeing a spike in cases.  At the Bay Area's only wildlife care hotline, calls are up 20 percent from the previous year.

"These are people having raccoons digging up their yard because raccoons like the grubs that live under a well-watered yard," Alison Hermance, communications manager at WildCare Wildlife Hospital in Marin County's San Rafael, said. "These are people that are seeing deer in their yards and they hadn't seen deer in their yards…they have a food source or a water source."

The increased interactions between humans and animals can have harmful effects. Medical staff at the WildCare Wildlife Hospital recently treated an owl for a broken wing. They say he was hit by a car, trying to find food in the middle of the road.

"An animal that usually has a territory this big,” Hermance said drawing a circle. “Is all of the sudden having to go this far in order to find water especially but also food. So animals are traveling farther."

They have also seen an unusual spike of parasites in their patients, which may be caused by dehydration.

"If the animals are down because they're dehydrated, they don't have as much energy, they're not going to move around as much because they want to conserve what they do have, then the parasites can find them a lot easier,” Wildlife Assistant Galen Groff said.

At the Wildlife Center of Silicon Valley, staff is treating 20 percent more animals than last year.
One of the ducks receiving treatment there crashed into a shallow puddle. It would normally aim for a pond.

“(The drought) certainly is a factor because they're not finding the water that is out there normally,” said Director of Operations Janet Alexander.

Wildlife advocates say to prevent animals from wandering on your property, make sure you're not providing them access to food and water.

"If it gets drier, it's just going to get more and more likely that all of the wildlife in the area are going to gravitate to the only areas where there is water, and that's our backyard,” Hermance said.

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