Mountain goats in Glacier National Park. Photo by jessicafm via Flickr.
From the Arctic to the Rockies to the Mediterranean, species large and small are changing their migratory patterns and seeking more hospitable homes. Why? Climate change affects weather conditions, hunting grounds, and the availability of water and favored food supplies. Those that can up and move are the lucky ones--for now--but each relocation affects food chains and habitats, often in ways we can't yet predict. These nine critters are just a few of those being rousted from their regular watering holes by global warming.
1. Mountain Goats Running Out of Room
Mountain goats in the alpine reaches of the Northern Rockies may have gone as high as they can go in search of summer grazing areas, as the snowfields that provide water for the plants they eat melt more and more rapidly. Reports Sierra magazine: "In recent years these tough, resilient creatures have been losing ground in much of their traditional range, dwindling in many places to populations in the low double digits."
2. Barn Swallows Seen on Banks Island
Common in more southern climes, barn swallows have been spotted on Banks Island, the westernmost point in the Canadian Arctic Archipelago as temperatures there warm up. Local Inuit hunters and trappers also report seeing robins and catching Pacific salmon and herring, none of which are normally found in the area. Warming and earlier thawing on the island are additionally thought to be causing earlier births of muskox and earlier egg-laying by geese.
3. Pacific Coast Butterfly Performs Disappearing Act
Historically found from Baja California to British Columbia, the Edith's checkerspot butterfly has been disappearing from the southern parts of its range and from lower elevations where the climate is becoming warmer and dryer. A survey conducted by a researcher from the University of California, Santa Barbara, showed that Mexican populations of the black, orange, and white-winged insect were four times more likely to be extinct than ones in Canada. In another study, 22 of 35 European butterfly species were shown to have shifted their ranges northward as the climate warmed over the past century.
4. Sea Ice Slipping Away from Walruses
Like ill-fated revelers at an overcrowded rock concert, thousands of Pacific walruses were stampeded to death in 2007 after disappearing sea ice forced them into close quarters on the shoreline above the Arctic Circle. Walruses generally use sea ice as a rest stop on their ocean-going journeys, but warmer weather and changes in ocean currents and winds are diminishing the amount available, causing the animals to move farther north each year. Two years ago, the Associated Press reported, "walruses came ashore earlier and stayed longer, congregating in extremely high numbers, with herds as big as 40,000 at Point Shmidt, a spot that had not been used by walruses as a 'haul-out' for a century."