Wildlife: Wet summer no threat to wildlife

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Looking back, 2013 seems to have been a wet year. But when I checked the data, I found I was wrong.

My memory is that April through August was wet. I recall that in July, local forecasters reported significant rain on 22 of 31 days.

Surely such a wet year would have adverse effects on fish and wildlife. But this spring and summer I have seen many fawns, turkey poults and even a few broods of grouse. Songbird nesting success seems to have been about normal.

Kurt Moseley, a wildlife biologist with the Corps of Engineers in the Pittsburgh District, agrees.

"I've detected no impacts on terrestrial wildlife as a result of the wet growing season," he said in a telephone conversation.

Rose Riley, a biologist and water quality specialist with the Corps' Water Management Branch, said the rains had little impact on wildlife.

"When flows get extreme -- too low or too high -- we see impacts on fish," she said. "We control discharges from our reservoirs to maintain minimum flows. Aquatic life is in pretty good shape this year."

Waterways swell after big rains, but conditions usually return to normal in a few days. So as of now, aquatic life in southwestern Pennsylvania should be near normal.

Still, 2013 seems to have been unusually wet. So I checked National Weather Service statistics for Pittsburgh. April rainfall (3.27 inches) was slightly above average (3.15 inches), and May was actually drier than normal (2.33 inches/average 4.17 inches ). June (5.48 inches/4.04 inches) and July (6.16 inches/3.77 inches) were wet, and August turned dry (1.78 inches/3.51 inches).

So yes, summer was wet, but not nearly as wet as I recalled. I failed to consider that we had no big floods that inundated ground nesting wildlife and no raging streams and rivers that scoured waterways.

Of course, weather varies over even small areas. Pittsburgh may pick up an inch of rain in an afternoon storm, and nearby communities may get nothing. So making generalizations about the impacts of weather is risky.

And if a hurricane slams us in the next few weeks, all bets are off.


Biologist, author and broadcaster Scott Shalaway can be heard 9-11 a.m. Saturdays on 1370 WVLY-AM (Wheeling), and noon-2 p.m. Sundays on 1360 WMNY-AM (Pittsburgh). He can be reached at http://scottshalaway.googlepages.com, and 2222 Fish Ridge Road, Cameron, WV 26033.


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