Drought and Wildlife in Arizona
About Our Drought Response and How You Can Help
How does drought impact wildlife?
Water is wildlife’s most important resource and it’s vital for more than just quenching thirst.
- Fish and frogs live in or near water their whole lives.
- Birds use water to keep their feathers clean and free of parasites, and larger animals like elk use water to cool down their bodies.
The longer a drought lasts the more physical stress it can place on wildlife, lowering their reproductive success, and leaving them less able to survive the regular challenges of a life in nature.
Fewer water sources cause wildlife to congregate in singular locations, increasing the risk of predation and the spread of disease. Animals may also seek water in places that are less safe for them, like our urban or agricultural environments.
How does AZGFD work to mitigate the impact of drought?
Just as drought is not new to Arizona, it is not new to AZGFD. AZGFD has managed species successfully for 100+ years, including planning for drought and its impacts.
AZGFD works year round to mitigate the impact of drought on our state’s wildlife. Nearly every role in the agency plays some part in AZGFD’s drought mitigation efforts.
- AZGFD maintains 3,000+ wildlife waters throughout the state, hauling more than 1 million gallons of water each year.
- Hatcheries adjust their efforts in response to drought.
- Teams of biologists work to salvage, translocate and rescue populations of wildlife as necessary, in support of larger ongoing management plans.
- The agency supports the state’s wildfire response and responds to human-wildlife conflicts fueled by drought.
What impact have AZGFD’s drought response efforts had?
AZGFD’s efforts have had a meaningful impact on Arizona’s wildlife.
- Without AZGFD’s efforts to fill wildlife waters across the state each year, it is likely that many animals would not have survived the intense summer heat.
- AZGFD is renovating its wildlife water designs to be more efficient and self-sustaining, requiring less trips to fill them without reducing the water available to wildlife on the landscape.
- From transporting generations of endangered Chiracahua leopard frogs from dried up water sources to adjusting hunt guidelines to maintain healthy, resilient and sustainable game populations, all species big and small benefit from AZGFD’s efforts.
What are the challenges in implementing the agency’s drought response efforts?
Heavy rainfall does not end the drought.
- Water from a few days of heavy rainfall doesn’t stay on the ground for very long, and can have a negative impact on habitat, including causing runoff into lakes and streams that adversely affect wildlife.
A few consistent wet seasons would also not immediately resolve the effects of Arizona’s long-term drought.
- Even if Arizona experienced a few consecutive years of normal rainfall, it would take wildlife time to rebound to pre-drought population conditions. Mearn’s quail, for example, would likely need 3-5 years of normal rainfall to rebound from the consistently poor monsoon conditions. The drought has impacted Arizona’s wildlife for years, and recovery would not happen overnight.
Knowing drought will not be quickly resolved, AZGFD continues to implement its agency-wide response, but wildlife conservation is not free.
- AZGFD doesn’t receive any general fund tax dollars. Funding from fishing and hunting licenses, tags or stamps are stretched thin as AZGFD works to conserve and protect 800+ wildlife species.
- AZGFD’s water hauling program alone has a significant financial impact on the agency, and costs continue to climb each year.
Donations play a large role in the sustainability of these efforts, but as greater efforts are needed, costs continue to increase.
How can the public support AZGFD’s drought response efforts?
To donate to Send Water, visit sendwater.org or text SENDWATER to 41444.
To learn more about volunteer opportunities, contact Beth Keune: email@example.com
Learn more about drought and AZGFD’s response
AZGFD’s Drought Management Actions Plan
Drought and Wildlife in AZ article