Helping Wildlife After a Hurricane
After a hurricane strikes land, you may notice a general disappearance of some species of wildlife for periods of up to many months. Some wildlife are killed or severely injured. Usually however, wildlife seeks safety before a storm and may move many miles from our habitats.
When the storm abates, species which moved or were blown considerable distances will likely stay in their new secure area, restore food reserves, and then may return to their former habitat. If the habitat has changed radically however, the wildlife species may continue to wander, looking for more optimal conditions. Sandhill cranes are large, resilient birds. They are susceptible to damage — more so than people — from flying objects however and so can suffer small and large injuries. If your habitat remains basically secure however, it is likely that they will return over the next six months.
Other birds, especially resident species needing hollow trees, substantial canopy cover and scrubby/shrubby areas for nesting and foraging can be hit especially hard in severe storms. The particular type of habitat you once had may no longer be present in your landscape.
Replacement trees take years to grow. The removal of damaged trees in the wake of storms likely removes even more habitat than the storm itself removed. If you can, remember that damaged tress might be pruned for both your security and to the benefit of wildlife. Often, trees with limbs ripped off by winds can be satisfactorily "doctored" and in some cases may be even better for cavity nesters after a storm than before. If permissible in your community, some of the storm debris resulting from damage to trees and shrubs can be brush-piled to the benefit of many wildlife species- birds, reptiles, insects, amphibians, and small mammals. Scrub habitat and smaller trees and shrubs may show incredible growth in the wake of storms as overshadowing trees may have blown down or been heavily pruned by winds. This results in more light reaching the understory plants and a change--often not necessarily a negative one-for wildlife.
Just as storm winds displace wildlife from your habitat to some other place, the winds and flooding may also result in the movement of species into your habitat that you have not seen before. Be on the lookout for the return of those species that may have left as well as new wildlife visitors to your habitat.