As high temperature records fall across southern British Columbia, a wildlife rescue group is warning of the heat risks for animals.
Kimberly Stephens, the hospital manager for the Wildlife Rescue Association of BC, says there has been an uptick in the number of calls and admissions of animals affected by extreme temperatures.
She says some have heat exhaustion, others have been chased out by wildfires, or their food and water resources have dried up because of the extreme heat and drought.
Stephens says that’s when they come into contact — and conflict — with domestic pets, vehicles and humans.
Although much of the coastal region is expected to return to seasonal temperatures today, the central and southern regions of the province must endure the heat for a day or two longer.
Stephens suggests people put out shallow water dishes for animals, allowing them to drink without drowning, but advises not to leave out food.
“It’s going to affect all wildlife, but some species are a little bit more sensitive to those changes in the environment than other species are,” Stephens said in an interview.
As an example, she explains bats are particularly sensitive to heat, as once their bodies reach a certain temperature, they go into heat stress, which lowers their chance of survival.
“For most of our birds and bats, of course, insects are a main part of their diet,” she says. “So, the decrease in the population of insects because of the extreme heat and the drought will also have an adverse effect on their on their well-being.”
More than 80 per cent of the province has reached Level 4 or 5 drought conditions, the highest possible rankings.
Stephens says wildfires often drive wildlife into new environments, which may mean more competition with other animals who have already established their territory there.
“Climate change is definitely taking a toll on wildlife, causing them to have to learn to adapt to different temperatures, different resources and different habitats than they’ve been used to.”
About 370 wildfires are burning in the province, 145 are considered out of control and 11 are classified as fires of note, meaning they are highly visible or threaten people or property.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 16, 2023.