Animals Sense Storms

Yes, some animals are very keen in sensing a forthcoming storm or other natural phenomena such as an earthquake, tidal wave, and tsunami. There is evidence that some animals do make better use of their existing five senses compared to humans.

In December 2004, a huge tidal wave hit Southeast Asia and killed 200,000 people. Almost no wild animals died, except those penned up in cages.

Prior to a large tsunami that stuck Sir Lanka in 2005, elephants ran for higher ground, dogs would not go outside the house, and flamingos left their low-lying coastal breeding areas.

Just before the big earthquake and tsunami that slammed into Japan in March, 2011, people reported that animals behaved erratically. Some animals tried to get to higher ground, while others became distressed and anxious.

The prevalent feeling among researchers is that some animals can detect earthquakes and earth tremors as they are happening, even from a long distance away.

Animals are able to hear sounds that humans can’t hear. Frequencies below the range of human hearing are termed infrasonic. Humans can’t hear frequencies, tones, or pitches below about 20 cycles per second, or 20 Hertz.

Elephants can “hear” below 20 Hz. They hear through their big feet. Earthquake shockwaves and ocean waves occur at frequencies elephants can hear, but humans can’t.

Hurricanes produce large decreases in air pressure and water pressure. Sharks that were tagged with tracking sensors were observed to swim to deeper waters during Hurricane Charlie.

Birds and bees also are sensitive to air pressure changes. They will cover their nests or hives in advance of a severe storm. Many people observe that birds will hunker down as a big storm is approaching. Worms will avoid rising groundwater.

On the high end of the scale, humans can’t hear much above 20,000 Hz. Dogs and cattle can hear up to 40,000 Hz.

A question often comes up. Can the behavior of bears give any indication as to the severity of winter? Most researchers think the answer is no. What about the groundhog? Is Punxsutawney Phil accurate? If the Pennsylvania furry rodent sees his shadow on February 2, there will be six more weeks of winter. If no shadow, it’s an early spring. Phil has been correct 39 percent of the time according to StormFax Weather Almanac. Not a good record!

In short, scientists believe that many animals are attuned to their environment and that very small changes in that environment will cause them to move to a safer condition.

The Scheckel farm boys out on Oak Grove Ridge, outside of Seneca, in the heart of Crawford County, kept a sharp eye out for the wooly bear caterpillar. Lots of wooly bear caterpillars can be seen in late September and all through October. The ends of the wooly bear caterpillar are black and the band in the middle is a brown-orange.

It was common knowledge that the wider the middle brown-orange band, the milder the winter. Conversely, if the middle band was narrow, prepare for a long, harsh winter. All the farmers on Oak Grove Ridge had a deep and abiding faith in the wooly bear caterpillar. That rural lore was passed down from generation to generation. Wooly bear was better than the weather forecasters and as reliable as the Old Farmer’s Almanac!


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