Flying to safety

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LAKE TEXOMA -- Recent floods have forced habitat changes for all residents on Lake Texoma. We've seen people moving to higher ground, but it's not just humans adapting to the new water levels. Animals are being forced to move as well.

Every summer area birds start their nesting and hatching; animal experts say it's part of their annual cycle. This year those plans were disrupted by Lake Texoma's rising waters.

Rules of nature say every living being needs food and water to survive. An egret appeared to look for lunch on the shores of High Port Marina, instead of its natural habitat.

"Most of the mammals are going to move to higher ground, where's there's adequate habitat," said Dan Dinkler, an invasive species specialist at the Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge.

When severe flooding hit two weeks ago many natural habitats were quickly submerged, displacing hundreds of species of birds, reptiles, and other mammals.

"We did have some cliff swallows under a bridge, and the bridge is fully underwater, I’m sure there were some casualties there," Dinkler said.

Now Lake Texoma rises slowly; swallowing islands where birds normally build their nests and lay their eggs. Most animals can fly, or swim, to safety. Newly hatched baby birds are left stranded, unable to escape, Dinkler said.

Wildlife usually bounces back, by breeding next year instead, but it’s too late this year. Most of these birds breed during the spring and summer months. The animals also flock to the new shorelines, looking for more food or to set up a new home.

"Fire ants, when they're inundated they form sort of a ball and float off and if you encounter one of these you definitely don't want anything to do with them," Dinkler said.

Wildlife experts also say to be careful of more snakes swimming in the lake, displaced from their homes on dry land. That advice provides one more reason to stay out of the water.

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