Climate Change Really Bugs Wildlife  

Who doesn’t love spotting a moose in the wild? Or the satisfaction of a successful garden harvest? Or catching a fish on a beautiful summer’s day? These outdoor experiences are fundamentally important in our lives but are being threatened by climate change. The National Wildlife Federation’s new report, Ticked Off: America’s Outdoor Experience and Climate Change, looks at how warmer temperatures, stronger storms, and changes in habitat are impacting life outdoors. But it’s not just you and I who are upset— climate change is bugging wildlife too.


With longer summers and shorter winters, the winter tick is on the rise. Winter ticks threaten moose, as moose can be infested with thousands of winter ticks at a time. These ticks latch on to the moose, causing anemia, hypothermia, and weight loss, which can all lead to death. This latest winter, 64% of moose calves studied in New Hampshire died from winter ticks.

Moose in Gaspesie National Park. Quebec. Canada by Philippe Henry
Moose in Gaspesie National Park. Quebec. Canada. National Wildlife Photo Contest photo by Philippe Henry

Mice and Ground Nesting Birds

Fire ants are a nuisance for humans but can be deadly for wildlife. Fire ants bite and sting, injecting venom into their prey. Ground nesting birds, as well as lizards, snakes, mice and other young species are at risk of attack. The fire ants are benefiting from warmer temperature and by the end of the century their range could advance northward by about 80 miles, spreading further into Texas, Oklahoma, Missouri, Tennessee and Virginia.

A field mouse. Photo via Flickr user Tim Watts.
A field mouse. Flickr photo by Tim Watts.


Due to excess runoff and extra nutrients making it into the waterways, harmful algal blooms are popping up all over. These blooms threaten our drinking water, outdoor recreation activities, and fish populations. Fish need a habitat that is just right in order to thrive. With increased algal blooms, oxygen is depleted from the water, creating a “dead zone” where fish cannot survive. Warmer water temperatures are also threatening fish populations as species like the walleye, yellow perch and bluegill, which are sensitive to warmer water and struggle to adapt.

Bluegills. Photo via Flickr user Tom Potterfield.
Bluegills. Flickr photo by Tom Potterfield.

Squirrels and Chipmunks

Invasive stink bugs are a pest that are common in the Eastern United States. These bugs are a pain in our homes but especially in our gardens, where they will often attack garden harvests. Two wildlife species that are mad about this new competition are squirrels and chipmunks. With stink bugs ruining vegetables, there are few tomatoes left for the squirrels and chipmunks to steal!

Chipmunk; Gebhard Woods State Park, Morris, IL
A chipmunk gathering food in Gebhard Woods State Park, Morris IL. Photo by Peggy Hanna.

The Next Generation of Wildlife Enthusiasts

Climate change is increasing pests and making some of our favorite outdoor activities more dangerous. Annoyances like the deer tick or poison ivy can quickly make a positive day in the outdoors a negative experience. Outdoor activities like hiking, fishing, wildlife watching, gardening and so much more are being impacted by climate change. We all want to have safe and vibrant outdoor experiences, and continue the sense of conservation and love of wildlife that has been an American tradition.

Photo donated by National Wildlife Photo Contest entrant Dan Lease.
Photo donated by National Wildlife Photo Contest entrant Dan Lease.
Climate change is bringing stressful new changes to the outdoor world, and without proper actions, conditions will only worsen. The Clean Power Plan is smart action proposed by the Environmental Protection Agency to help get us on the path towards a cleaner energy future. These first-ever limits on carbon from power plants, the nation’s single largest source of carbon pollution, will help to protect our outdoor spaces and wildlife species so that we call can enjoy the outdoor experience.

Take ActionSubmit a comment to the EPA in support of the Clean Power Plan! Add your voice in support of this important rule.