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Drought expected to persist, spread throughout Wyoming

Seedskadee National Wildlife Refuge in SW Wyoming.
Posted at 12:27 PM, Jul 23, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-23 12:27:42-04

CASPER, Wyo. (AP) -- Officials expect moderate to extreme drought to persist and spread throughout Wyoming.

The multiyear drought is the state's worst since 2013. Last year was Wyoming's fifth driest and 16th warmest since 1895, the Casper Star-Tribune reports.

Even parts of the state with average or above-average precipitation got it earlier in the year than usual, leaving those areas just as susceptible to drought now, Wyoming Game and Fish Department terrestrial habitat supervisor Ian Tator told the state Game and Fish Commission last week.

"On a statewide basis, there's nowhere that's doing fantastic," Tator said.

Scientists expect the trend to worsen due to climate change. The result: More wildfires and strain for wildlife, farmers and ranchers.

Animals that move closer to roads to forage on greener plants risk getting hit. Mountain lions enter urban areas to find food. Bears have more frequent run-ins with people.

Sage grouse have less to eat and become more vulnerable to predators, Tator said.

Irrigation, meanwhile, becomes more challenging for farmers and ranchers and feed costs rise.

Fishing spots also face strain as water levels fall and temperatures rise, state fisheries management coordinator Dave Zafft told the commission.

Next year could be even worse for fish, Zafft said, if the drought doesn't abate.