CHICOPEE, Mass. (WWLP) – With most of the state in critical drought conditions, it can be hard on residents and crops, but it is also a challenge for wildlife.

New England animals are no stranger to the fluctuated weather conditions which includes harsh winters and drier summers. However, the most affected wildlife are fish habitats. Here is how drought conditions can affect wildlife in Massachusetts.

Stream Fish

Stream fish may be the most impacted wildlife when there is a drought due to the lower water levels and even some streams temporarily drying up. Without streams moving water from one location to another, the stagnant pools can heat up faster causing a loss in oxygen that keeps the fish alive. Fish stuck in small pools of water are also easy targets for prey and are most susceptible to diseases.

It can take months or sometimes years for fish to recolonize in impacted areas. MassWildlife monitors fish communities during droughts to better understand the effects on them.

Lake and Pond Fish

Fish that prefer living in larger bodies of water like lakes and ponds have less of a struggle during a drought but prolonged droughts can have impacts. Shallow ponds with large vegetation can struggle with oxygen levels. As water increases in temperature, it’s hard to hold oxygen. The longer the drought conditions, the more severe oxygen levels, which can kill the fish.

If you see dead fish in a lake or pond, you should report it to the Massachusetts Environmental Police’s 24-hour radio room at 1-800-632-8075.

Trout Stocking

Trout stocking that begins in mid-September may be affected by the drought but it is still too early to know. Restocking in lakes and ponds are most likely to be unaffected but rivers and streams may by delayed.


Drier weather can affect the natural berries in forest, which is one source of food for bears. Without the natural food available to bears, they may be searching for other sources of a meal which includes your birdfeeders and trash bins. In dry summers, bear sightings tend to increase in residential areas. The dry weather can also affect the timing and qualify of fall acorns, another important food source for bears. Drought conditions can cause bears to find food in agricultural areas, resulting a crop damages.

Residents are recommended to remove their birdfeeders and only put their trash outside on the day of pickup to reduce their chances of encountering a bear.


Deer see minor impacts from the drought since they are constantly moving around to find food sources. Extreme dry conditions can cause deer to congregate more in areas where food is available. Residents are discouraged of setting up water drinking sites for deer because having them rely on an artificial source can increase the risk of disease between deer.


Moose are similar to deer when it comes to how drought affect them however hot, dry weather can cause stress in the large mammals. Moose like to avoid hot temperatures by moving to forested wetlands and use mud and shallow water to cool off. With drought conditions, there are less areas for moose to find relief from the heat.


Ducks, geese, and swans see very little impact from droughts. They can fly to another water source when needed.


Summer droughts do not affect turkeys too much. However, the turkey population is more sensitive to spring weather conditions.


Beaver build dams to regulate water levels, so when water is too shallow they can increase dam building activity. If they can not raise the water level they may leave the area in search of deeper water.