Florida has seen its fair share of hurricanes over the years. Being in a prime spot for these tropical storm cyclones to hit, Florida’s residents must persevere through the storms in almost every hurricane season. Over the years, humans have learned to adapt their homes and prepare in advance. However, what about the animals that share these habitats?
Hurricane Ian hit the west side of Florida, around the Fort Myers area, on September 20, 2022, as a Category 4 storm. Ian has caused approximately $60 billion worth of damage and displaced around 40,000 people. What once used to be a hotel is now complete rubble. Sanibel Island, which used to be covered in greenery, is now completely brown, with its foliage destroyed by salt water. As humans return to rebuild their homes, what about the animals who call this habitat their home? These areas provide homes to Florida’s Wildlife, like the alligators, tortoises, owls, and more. Breanna Frankel, a rehabilitation manager at CROW Clinic on Sanibel Island, told CNN, “Wildlife has co-evolved with natural disasters – they understand when it’s coming. It’s all of the extra things that the hurricane led to that I think we’re starting to see more problems with.”
How do animals survive when there is an influx of salt water in their freshwater resources? Hurricane Ian completely changed their habitats. The American alligator has not been seen since the hurricane. While alligators can deal with salt water for small amounts of time, they are freshwater creatures. Additionally, CROW has seen more turtles being brought in because they are being hit by cars while searching for freshwater. However, there is hope. Animals have begun to emerge and are spotted around the area, including coastal birds, and organizations like CROW are continuing to care for their Floridian animal neighbors.
Hurricane Ian hit Florida, its residents, and its animal inhabitants hard. There is much to learn from this storm to help prepare for the future. For now, let’s all hope that everyone can work together to rehabilitate the community to what it once was.