What Happens to Wild Animals During a Hurricane?


While humans have the ability to evacuate during an impending hurricane, wild animals don’t have that luxury. So as nearly 6 million humans are instructed to flee Hurricane Irma, what’s happening to our feathered, furred and scaled friends? (Miami Herald and The Telegraph)

What is a hurricane? How does it work? Find out with our Forces of Nature interactive.

Teachers, scroll down for a quick list of key resources in our Teachers Toolkit.

When Hurricane Hermine hit Florida in 2016, its heavy rains produced flooding which caused several manatees to be stuck in a golf course pond. Florida Fish and Wildlife to the rescue!
Photograph by Karen Parker, courtesy Florida Fish and Wildlife. CC BY-ND 2.0

Discussion Ideas


  • What mammals seem to survive well during a hurricane and storm surge?
    • Raccoons and other scavengers find new sources of food during and after cyclone events.
    • Bears often benefit from increased ground shelter created by downed trees and brush.
    • Sometimes, deer can benefit from upturned earth caused by gale-force winds. This brings fresh grasses, shrubs, and roots to the surface.
    • Many marine mammals, such as whales and some dolphins, can seek safety in open water or the deep ocean.


  • What reptiles seem to survive well during a hurricane and storm surge?



  • What animals seem to be particularly at risk during a hurricane and storm surge?
    • Migrating birds are often blown off-course by gale-force winds.
    • Rainfall washes sediments and pollutants onto corals that thrive in shallow tropical waters. This runoff blocks sunlight and hinders the growth of the coral reef.
    • Squirrels and birds such as woodpeckers are often thrown from their nests, and their supplies of nuts and seeds can be wiped out.
    • Sea turtle nests, buried in shallow beach sands, can be washed out to sea.
    • Fish are at risk in a number of different ways—from sediments and pollutants washing into their habitat, creating a dead zone; from fallen electrical lines that threaten them with electrocution; and from an influx of seawater into freshwater habitats.
    • The dune habitats of beach mice and wetland birds are often destroyed by strong storm surges.
    • Deer and other herbivores may not be able to survive the season if upturned grasses and shrubs rot in the wet ground.
    • The burrows of snakes and burrowing owls can be blocked by debris, preventing their exit.
    • Some marine mammals, such as manatees and dolphins, may be washed ashore or into unfamiliar habitats.



Miami Herald: What happens to wild animals during a hurricane?

The Telegraph: What happens to wild animals in a hurricane – and which species do surprisingly well?

Nat Geo: Forces of Nature

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