What does Hurricane Ian mean for Florida’s wildlife?
Florida’s native wildlife is well adapted to hurricanes, and species have all kinds of strategies for staying safe or rebounding quickly. For example, even though sea turtle nesting season overlaps with hurricane season and some eggs may be destroyed, many of the young have already hatched and crawled out to sea by the time the season really ramps up. Lots of wildlife in the state can even benefit from new habitat created by flooding and downed trees.
But increasingly, that natural resilience is compromised by two human-created problems.
First, many species are suffering declines driven by habitat loss and other factors. These depleted populations may be squeezed into limited parcels of land, making it much more difficult for them to bounce back after a storm.
Second, climate change is supercharging some hurricanes. Scientists are still learning what this means for wildlife. Bigger storms can wipe out important habitat on land and at sea.
One of Florida’s most beloved species, the manatee, can get trapped inland when floodwaters recede. As Ian progresses, experts are poised to rescue the animals when they can do so safely. They are also asking people to report stranded, injured or dead manatees to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.