Adding a bird bath to your garden and keeping it full of fresh water can make a big difference for wildlife when temperatures soar. As well as taking a drink, birds will splash around to cool down and clean dust and grime from their feathers. Squirrels and other wildlife will make use of it too. You may be surprised at who drops by.
Wild animals have different strategies to cope with hot weather. Snakes seek shelter in rock piles and burrows. Turtles will move to deeper, cooler water. Squirrels move around less in the heat and use their tail as a sun parasol.
Birds release heat and cool down by gular fluttering. The species that do this open their mouth and flutter their neck muscles to encourage heat loss-it’s the bird version of panting. Some birds practice urohydrosis and urinate on their legs to cool down.
For wildlife in care at Toronto Wildlife Centre, rehabilitation staff and volunteers check on animals in outdoor enclosures more often in the hot weather. We mist animals with water, provide shade and pools of fresh, clean water and bring them back inside if it is really hot.
Sometimes, we freeze water in plastic bottles and put them in outdoor enclosures-raccoons often bring them into their kennel cabs to sleep with. Ice cubes in water dishes do double duty by keeping the water cool and giving curious raccoons something to play with.