California is experiencing its worst drought in a century, which is putting at risk the survival of many species and damaging the economy.
Experts have warned that the lack of rainfall has already dried 95% of wetlands in California, causing the death or migration of many animal and bird species.
As the availability of watery spots decreases, waterfowl and other animals are forced to converge to the few that remain intact, increasing the threat of spreading parasites and diseases more easily.
Scarce vegetation has also hit deer and bear populations, and even large carnivores might be damaged in the long-term as their prey diminishes.
Meanwhile, the dry conditions have taken their toll on the fish population, as well as the the local economy which is heavily dependent on the salmon industry.
Jason Holley, wildlife biologist supervisor for the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, said, “We’ll have a much better idea of where we stand in two to three months. However, we’re greatly concerned about many likely implications should the drought increase in severity or duration.
“We are preparing for the worst and hoping for a very wet late winter and spring.”
As the region struggles with the dry climate, Californian farmers from the Imperial Valley, near the Mexican border, are using hundreds of billions of gallons of water per year to produce hay that will be exported to China and used to feed cattle.
According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the drought is not over yet and will worsen during February across California and the west coast.