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How Do Wild Animals Survive Tornadoes and Storms?

The United States, renowned for its diverse climates, experiences a wide variety of weather throughout the year. In fact, more than 1,000 tornadoes hit the U.S. every year on average, and this terrible situation doesn’t just affect humans.

Wild animals are also severely impacted by these disasters; for example, during Hurricane Andrew in 1992, 187 million freshwater fish were killed. Perhaps now you’re wondering, “How do wild animals survive tornadoes and storms?” This article will walk you through the various responses to this question. 

Key Takeaways:

  • Each species has its own way of dealing with severe weather, such as storms and tornadoes.
  • Most animals may be able to tell when a storm is coming, giving them time to leave the area or hide as soon as possible.
  • During times like these, many animals can also suffer terrible effects. People can help by protecting their habitats, supporting wildlife rescue centers, and, if possible, making a safe space for wild animals. 

How do wild animals survive tornadoes and storms?

To navigate dangerous weather conditions such as tornadoes, wild animals rely on their innate instincts and adaptability.

These animals have evolved strategies for ensuring their survival, including the instinct to seek out and use shelter, the migration to safer territories, and even the use of cooperative behaviors. 

Animals in the wild during storms

Geese flying in formation
Geese flying in formation

Animals in the wild rely on their innate survival instincts when confronted by dangerous weather like hurricanes and tornadoes. Many animals have heightened senses that allow them to detect changes in barometric pressure, vibrations, and even distant sounds that indicate the approach of storms. For instance, you might notice birds beginning to fly lower, and you might also see small mammals going underground to hide in their burrows. 

Herd animals may also be seen moving together to secure locations, and aquatic creatures may swim to deeper waters where the current is calmer. Each animal acts in a different way when it senses a storm or tornado coming, but in general, these actions are meant to keep them safe from the coming danger. 

Are animals more affected by storms than humans?

Storms have different effects on humans and animals because they have different ways of surviving and different weaknesses. Wild animals often know when a storm is coming because they have instincts and heightened senses that tell them to find shelter or move. But when severe storms damage their habitat, they can lose a lot of their food, shelter, and places to raise their young. 

On the other hand, thanks to early warning systems, humans can prepare to encounter storms and sometimes even avoid them. However, storms can damage infrastructure, cause economic losses, and even force people to relocate.

Humans can rebuild and change with the help of technology and society, but animals must rely on their instincts and ability to adapt. During dangerous times like these, both face challenges, but the impact varies considerably.

Where is the safest place for animals during a tornado?

During a tornado, an animal’s natural instincts and adaptations will determine where it’ll be safest. Some animals, like birds, are able to flee the area when they detect the approach of a tornado, protecting themselves from harm. 

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However, animals that can’t flee immediately, such as farm animals like cows and horses, may instinctively gather near natural windbreaks with large structures that may offer some protection from the tornado’s force or even move to higher grounds. For animals like small mammals, burrows provide the safest option, but you may also observe some rafting their way into a river or ocean. 

Herd or Group Behavior

Herd of horses
Herd of horses | image by Julia Rubinic via Flickr | CC BY 2.0

Tornado and storm herd behavior describe the coordinated actions taken by herds of animals in response to dangerous weather. Cows, buffalos, and deer are just a few examples of animals that exhibit this instinctive behavior to prioritize their safety. They’ll frequently relocate as a group to more secure areas during these times in order to maintain a sense of community and to keep each other warm. 

How do they adapt to the aftermath? 

This vulnerable situation can have far-reaching consequences for all forms of life. In the case of animals, this is how they exhibit their remarkable capacity for resilience and adaptability. After the storm, you might see them searching for necessary supplies like food and clean water. If familiar sources become unavailable, they may venture into previously unexplored territories. 

As a result of the destruction, you might also see some birds creating new nests and burrowing animals cleaning out the objects that have found their way into their homes. Since every animal is attempting to recover and survive in this post-storm environment, they need to maintain a heightened state of awareness at all times. Some species may even consider migrating to a new location if their native habitat is severely altered or destroyed. 

How can humans help?

Tree planting
Tree planting | Photo by Vitor Monthay on Unsplash

The following are some of the ways that you can help animals during and after storms:

  • Preservation of habitats: After a severe storm or a tornado, the habitats of many different species are completely destroyed. It would benefit them if you start clearing the area or planting new trees to help them establish a new habitat. 
  • Rescue and Rehabilitation: As a result of these events, a great number of animals may become severely disabled or even injured; therefore, it’s important that you give your support to local wildlife rescue centers that are responsible for dealing with these types of situations. 
  • Safe Spaces: If you have a lot of space and resources, you can make a safe place for animals in your yard to hide during severe weather conditions. 


Animals are incredible beings that can perceive impending disasters even in the absence of any advanced warning systems built by humans. Because of this, they can create a plan for their survival in advance and reduce the impact that dangerous weather conditions have on their chances of survival. 


  • “Animals in natural disasters”, Animal-ethics, animal-ethics.org
  • “How Do Tornadoes Affect Birds?”, E. Bryce, Audubon Magazine, May 24, 2013, audubon.org
  • “10 Ways Animals Supposedly Predict the Weather”, A. Hoyt, How Stuff Works, February 27, 2015, science.howstuffworks.com
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About Louise Robles

Louise writes about a wide variety of topics including wildlife, animals, and nature. She's developed a growing interest in animal biology and categorization due to her fascination with how they interact with one another and with their surroundings.