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Fracking Threatens California’s Wildlife

Fracking in California poses serious risks to the state’s wildlife. Endangered species like California condors, San Joaquin kit foxes and blunt-nosed leopard lizards live in places where fracking is likely to expand, and these animals face direct and indirect harm.

Fracking comes with intense industrial development, including multi-well pads and massive truck traffic. That’s because, unlike a pool of oil that can be accessed by a single well, shale formations are typically fractured in many places to extract fossil fuels, requiring multiple routes for trucks, adding habitat disturbance for wildlife and more pollution.
Fracking is already common in other parts of the country. Research and reports from those areas suggest links between fracking and a wide range of threats to wildlife and domestic animals like horses, cats and dogs. Among the most serious:

  • Fish kills in Pennsylvania have been associated with the contamination of streams, creeks and wetlands by fracking fluid.
  • Farmers, pet owners and veterinarians in five states — Colorado, Louisiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Texas — have reported deaths, serious illnesses and reproductive problems among wildlife, as well as horses, cattle, cats and dogs exposed to fracking infrastructure or wastewater.
  • Withdrawing water from streams and rivers for fracking can threaten fisheries.
  • Birds and other wildlife have been poisoned by chemical-laced water in wastewater ponds and tanks used to dispose of fracking fluids.
  • Equipment used to withdraw water for fracking activity has been implicated in the introduction of invasive species into creeks and rivers, causing fish kills.
  • Sensitive bird species and other wildlife can be affected by drilling noise, truck trips and other effects from gas drilling pads — one study found that a single drilling station can affect 30 acres of forest. Effects on wildlife include degradation of habitat and interference with migration and reproduction. 
  • The diversity of species in streams close to fracking activity in Pennsylvania was found to be reduced, even though drilling was done in accordance with all current state rules.
  • Wastewater ponds resulting from gas extraction provide breeding grounds for mosquitoes that can transmit diseases such as the deadly West Nile Virus to wild birds. In California, oil and gas companies are fracking in several counties with West Nile virus activity, including Kern County, which has had a human case.

The six California counties in which fracking is likely to expand are home to about 100 plants and animals on the endangered species list. These species are already struggling against extinction — fracking would only compound their troubles.


Fracking photo courtesy Flickr Commons/Justin Woolford; blunt-nosed leopard lizard courtesy Flickr Commons/Bill Bouton