Animals Feel The Heat, Flee Their Habitats

Westerners have been sweating out record temperatures this summer. But they're not the only ones feeling the heat. From rattlesnakes to bears, creatures great and small are fleeing their natural habitats while the mercury soars. And, as CBS News correspondent Sandra Hughes reports, they're turning up in some pretty unlikely places.

Rattlesnakes — everywhere. More than Bo Slyapich has seen in his 20-year career as a snake wrangler. The prolonged drought and extreme heat have combined to drive the thirsty and venomous creatures too close for comfort – back decks, play equipment – anywhere they can find shade.

What do they want?

"Food. Just like you go to the supermarket to go shopping, they come to our homes to go shopping," Slyapich says.

Not too far from the steps to homeowner Tom Mahan's family pool, there was a four-foot rattlesnake.

He's found them even sipping from his pool. Now he's taken protective measures.

"Half-inch grid galvanized fencing around the three-acre perimeter here, which keeps 99 percent of any kind of snakes out," Mahan said.

Deer and coyotes are coming down from the hills, too. A disoriented bear climbed up a utility pole in triple-digit heat.

"It is uncharted territory," said Paul Edelman of the Santa Monica Mountain Conservatory. "It is the equivalent of the stories you see on the big droughts in the African Serengetti plains where the animals drop three feet in front of the water hole."

In Utah, officials say the drought may have played a role in turning a black bear into a killer. It had to be euthanized after breaking into a family's tent and dragging out a little boy.

Wildlife sightings used to be something reserved for trips to the zoo. But experts predict that global warming will bring more extreme droughts, putting more animals in danger.

High in the mountains the smallest member of the rabbit family is disappearing. The pika dies when overheated.

"Species that are on the top of mountains, they don't have anywhere else to go where are they going to go?" Dr. Terry Root of Stanford University said. "They're going to go extinct."

Apparently the only one not rattled by the drought is the snake wrangler.