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Animals Feel the Strain of Europe’s Heatwave

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A dog jumps after a ball in a public fountain in Vienna, Austria, August 2, 2018. REUTERS/Heinz-Peter Bader - RC1E8E80C9B0

Parts of Europe are now so hot that their dogs need to wear shoes to go outside. So says the Zurich police force, at least.

In a summer where much of Europe has seen unusually high temperatures for an unusually long length of time, the police in Switzerland’s largest city have taken to fitting their squad’s German Shepherds with booties—and have urged others to do the same. They have a point: Asphalt in many places has reached egg-frying temperatures that can hurt paw pads, possibly causing damage to dogs that are already hot and bothered as it is. The warning serves as a reminder that, as the blazing summer continues across much of the continent, humans are far from the only ones to struggle.

In the far north of Norway, for example, temperatures have in recent weeks reached as far as 31 Celsius (88 Fahrenheit), a remarkably high level for a largely coastal region straddling the Arctic Circle. Unused to the heat, reindeer and sheep grazing the area have taken to cooling down in dangerous locations: the region’s road tunnels. Herd animals looking for shade not uncommonly wander into Norwegian tunnels in high summer, but this year an occasional phenomenon seems close to being an epidemic. Between the 10th and 31st of July, 44 animals were spotted entering tunnels—places where they run a high risk of being hit by unsuspecting drivers, who don’t stand to do well out of the clash either.

Wild animals are of course quite adaptable to changes of temperature. As this German article notes, for example, German boars regulate their temperatures by moving onto a meatless diet during hot spells, while deer get much of their liquid from their food. Some German animals are still feeling the punch, notably livestock, whose normal sources of fodder have turned dry and stopped growing. Right now, water levels in the country have gone so low that some nuclear power plants have reduced their output, because the rivers they use for cooling just aren’t cool enough.

That’s when the rivers are still there, mind you. Some parts of the River Elbe have shrunk so much that grenades and mines left over from World War Two have become visible for the first time on the now-dry river beds. In the eastern province of Sachsen-Anhalt, there have been 21 recorded instances of unused ordnance being discovered on the newly exposed river bottom in the last five weeks alone. The lack of feed that this extended dry spell has caused means that some farmers are increasingly slaughtering stock rather than buying feed for them. The E.U. has waived rules that require a proportion of pastureland to be left fallow for a time to increase biodiversity, and cow slaughtering in Germany has gone up by 21 percent compared to the same period last year.

Is an end in sight? Luckily for the arctic reindeer, temperatures in Northern Norway have fallen a bit, although only to still-above-average highs of 20 C (68 F). In Iberia, on the other hand, things are heating up, with fears that temperatures could reach a record-breaking 48 C (118.5F) over the weekend.