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Oklahoma wildlife impacted by 2 week Arctic outbreak

Posted at 7:59 PM, Feb 25, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-26 08:31:22-05

TULSA, Okla. — The two weeks of Arctic air plus two snowstorms made it impossible for some of the wildlife in Oklahoma to survive.

"It was certainly a very challenging time for a lot of our native wildlife, and the species that seemed to be affected were the ones not accustomed to this kind of extended or prolonged period of cold," said Dr. Kyle Abbott, a staff veterinarian at WildCare Foundation, a wildlife rehabilitation clinic in Noble, Okla.

Dr. Abbott said many songbirds were out of luck because the ground was frozen and covered in snow. They usually feed on insects.

"We were seeing large flocks of robins moving into urban areas in search of food," Dr. Abbott said.

He mentioned waterbirds were impacted the most because they do a lot of their feeding in and around water, but all bodies of water eventually iced over.

You may remember the viral photos of the alligators sitting in ice with their snouts sticking out to breathe. That was in McCurtain County in southeast Oklahoma. The alligators were conserving their energy.

"Most of these wild animals are going to have reserves both in terms of body fat and the ability to survive those kinds of cold temperatures for a certain period of time," Dr. Abbott said. "This was just so prolonged that a lot of them went through their reserves and couldn't find anything to help them maintain their body condition."

It may take several weeks to determine the magnitude of the harm done to wildlife during that two week period.

WildCare said they admitted 44 aquatic birds. After extensive care, they'll be released back into the wild.

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