Nature Notes

JOANNE VOULELIS, LOWCOUNTRY MASTER NATURALIST, COASTAL DISCOVERY MUSEUM:

What Happens to Animals During a Hurricane?
While humans rely on weather reports to forecast an impending hurricane, many animals can sense a storm well in
advance and get out of harm’s way. Changes in barometric pressure, for instance, are warning signs for birds, sharks and some other species to quickly seek safety.

But where do they go?
Many marine animals such as whales, dolphins, sharks and manatees will swim into deeper water to find refuge, but this is no guarantee. Sea turtles are adept at navigating waters during severe storms, but high surf can push them miles away. Diving deep toward the ocean floor can be protective, but they must surface every 20-30 minutes to breathe air. Hatchlings, however, are totally vulnerable and survival is doubtful. Birds will try to migrate to another location, but could be blown off-course by gale-force winds. Some will actually fly into the eye of the hurricane while it is still out to sea until the storm passes. Reptiles, such as snakes, may burrow into the ground, while gators will hide in their dens.
Deer mostly stay in their familiar habitat, but will bed down in heavy cover.

And After the Hurricane?
Loss of habitat is the greatest concern. Wind and waves can cause considerable damage. Tree nests can be destroyed and turtle nests over washed. Plastics and other trash end up in oceans causing harm to surviving marine life. Food sources become scare due to tree and vegetation loss. Fresh water can become inundated with salt water. Sediment runoff into ponds and streams can harm fish. While Covid-19 raged throughout 2020, HHI at least had a
respite from hurricane activity. Let’s hope for a calm 2021 season (“knock on wood,” as my daughter would say.)