Extreme drought is stopping Texas deer from growing full-sized antlers

Dry conditions are restricting food supplies for animals

Houstonians asked to conserve water during drought

Ongoing drought in the American west is having serious ramifications for farmers, ranchers and drinking water supplies.

Those troubles are also spilling over into local ecosystems.

As the severe dry conditions supress growth of local wild plants, white-tailed deer in places like Texas are facing a lack of food, potentially stunting the growth of their antlers ahead of next year’s hunting season, the Athens Daily Review reported.

Deer, like the white-tailed and mule deer native to North America, shed and regrow their antlers every year.

An absence of rain means less abundant vegetation for the deer to feed on. In that case, the bucks may not get quite as much of the nutrition needed to grow large antlers, writes an official with the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources (DWR).

In drought years, their antlers will still grow, but just not quite as large as in years with a sufficiently satisfying salad bar to munch on. Drought could have longer-term impacts on antler quality too, as bucks born during dry years may have smaller antlers throughout their life, the Utah DWR official writes.

Almost 65 per cent of Texas is currently in at least “severe” drought condition — with almost 18 per cent of the state in “exceptional” drought, according to the US government’s drought monitor.

The worst drought is concentrated in the central and western parts of the state. A deer official with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department told the Daily Review that deer may fare better in eastern Texas, which got some rain in the spring.

Hunting season for Texas white-tailed deer begins in mid-autumn.

Over 45 per cent of the contiguous US is currently in drought, with many parts of the southwest experiencing severe, extreme or exceptional drought.

The arid conditions are part of the decades-long “megadrought” that has gripped the American West, leaving vast reservoirs like Lake Mead and Lake Powell at exceptionally low levels.

A recent study found that the past 22 years have been the driest in the Southwest for at least 1,200 years.

The climate crisis is expected to make droughts worse as the planet continues to heat up. Droughts that used to occur every ten years will happen more than twice as often, as the planet soars 2 degrees Celsius above pre-20th century temperatures, per the latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

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