How Do Animals React to Storms?

Some, like Canadian geese, don’t care about rain, while others do and have developed ways to protect themselves during storms.

You may remember our January 2016 blog, “Where Will Animals Go During the Blizzard?”, where you learned how wildlife survives heavy winter snow.

I wondered how animals deal with summer thunderstorms, so I asked Park Authority ecologist Kristen Sinclair about their habits and preferences in relation to rainy weather.

Here are some common members of the Fairfax County wildlife community and their rain tolerance.

Deer:  Deer do their thing in light rain.

Some deer hunters say light rain is the best time to hunt.

In heavy rain, deer will seek shelter.

Squirrels: Squirrels have either leaf nests in tree branches or, like woodpeckers, in hollow trees.

The hollow tree nests provide better protection from rain.

Some young squirrels may actually drown in open leaf nests during a spring storm.

Adult squirrels use their tails as umbrellas and will come out in the rain.

Birds: This woodpecker has made a nest in a tree, so it is safe from storms.

Most birds have oil glands that they use to groom themselves, so their oil-covered feathers are essentially waterproof.

Water rolls off them, well, just like off a duck’s back.

Their feathers are not waterproof, so they usually do not hunt in the rain.

Beavers: Beavers have oil glands in their skin that help them maintain their body temperature, quite helpful since they spend so much time in and near water.

The oil makes their fur impervious to water just as feathers do for birds.

Fur and feathers are designed to repel water, and beaver fur does just that, so the animals don’t care about the rain.

However, they make their homes on the water, so heavy floods have the potential to destroy their lodges.

Raccoons, Foxes, Mice, Rabbits and other small mammals: Mammals that live underground will hide in their burrows.

They build shelters so they don’t flood, which allows wildlife to shelter at home during a strong storm.

Bats, like this silver-haired bat, actually have fur and are mammals.

If they get wet, their body temperature can drop quickly, and water affects their ability to fly.

Bats will hide under certain trees where the bark provides space and protection.

Insects: Those that fly cannot fly in rain, especially butterflies and moths.

The best weather for butterflies, like this Great Spangled Fritillary, is warm and sunny.

Insects hide under tree leaves to keep dry, using leaves like people use umbrellas.

Pisces: Since they live exclusively in water, they are not really affected by rain, although they can move due to a change from sunny to cloudy skies.

Fish are sometimes active and feeding before a storm arrives, perhaps due to atmospheric pressure changes, but any young bluegill or bass that mistake raindrops on the surface for food is a quick learner.

Newts and Frogs: Amphibians love the rain!

Remember that amphibians spend time both in and out of water.

Newts, like this spotted one, migrate and reproduce under the rain, using small ponds created in the forest by storms.

Snakes: Some snakes are adapted to water, such as water snakes and water moccasins, but those that do not normally spend their time in water would probably avoid it as much as possible.

Water would not necessarily help their scales, and in desert climates some species are known to take shelter during rain in man-made structures, including people’s houses.

In the event of a severe storm, such as a hurricane, everything is covered.