How Animals Keep Cool During the Summer

August 2019

headshot of ranger in uniformBy Ranger Elizabeth

Summers in Texas are incredibly hot - beyond hot, even. Most of us can go hang out in some nice cool AC or go for a swim to cool off. What about the wildlife, though? Some wildlife can swim, but they definitely can’t go home to an air-conditioned house. Let’s look at some of the things that our wild neighbors do to keep cool during the height of summer.

Swimming

Like us, many animals will go for a swim to cool off whenever it gets too hot. All sorts of animals will go for a swim. Even bees will take a quick dip to cool off. Leaving out a shallow bird bath can give many animals a spot to relax and to get refreshed.

Shedding

Mammals and birds can shed excess fur and feathers when the weather starts to turn hot, giving them some much needed relief from the heat. So, if it seems like your pet is balding this summer, don’t worry - they’re just trying to beat the heat.

Hiding

squirrel stretched out in the shadeOne of the easiest and most simple ways animals can cool down is by hiding somewhere cool, or by lying down in the shade. Many animals will also dig a little hole to lie down in because the earth is cooler deeper down than on the surface.

Panting/Sweating

Animals that can’t sweat can often be seen panting anytime it’s hot outside. Dogs pant very frequently when it’s hot. Other animals, such as pigs, that can’t sweat may also roll around in the mud to cool off.

Some animals, like horses, can sweat just like we do. As sweat evaporates, it pulls the heat away with it.

Estivation

Estivation is another tactic some animals use to cool off in the summer. Estivation is a temporary sleep that many animals go into when it becomes too hot. Once temperatures start to cool again these animals will wake up and go about their lives.

Humans: Stay cool, too!

Remember to stay cool this summer by avoiding being out during the hottest hours of the day and by drinking plenty of water. If you must be outside, be sure to wear light colored, loose clothing and stay hydrated.

If you start to notice any of the following symptoms, go cool off immediately and/or seek medical help:

  • Throbbing headache
  • Dizziness and light-headedness
  • Lack of sweating despite the heat
  • Red, hot and dry skin
  • Muscle weakness or cramps
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Rapid heartbeat, which may be either strong or weak
  • Rapid, shallow breathing
  • Behavioral changes such as confusion, disorientation or staggering
  • Seizures