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Q5: What did the Animals Eat After the Flood?

This is certainly a legitimate question. What did the animals eat after the flood? Many people claim that the carnivores would eat the herbivores, thus not allowing repopulation to occur. They also say that the world would have been so devastated that the herbivores would have had no food to eat.

But is this argument valid? This author would wager that it isn’t. Superficially, perhaps, but not if we examine the possibilities. The herbivores and ecosystem shall be examined first.

What would the ecosystem have been like at the time of the departure from the ark? There are clues given in Scripture that allow us to make reasonable assumptions about it. In Genesis 8:4-12 the Scriptures inform us that the Ark rested upon the moutains in the seventh month. The reader will remember that the flood began in the second month (see Q3: What was the Duration of the Flood?). It is then evident from the text that at least some dry ground was beginning to appear within roughly five months for the Ark to be resting upon the mountains of Ararat. The Ararat mountains are hardly the highest mountains in the current world.

Some understandings must first be established before the issue of what they ate can be addressed.

In verse five of chapter eight, it tells us that on the first day of the tenth month they could see the tops of the mountains of Ararat around them. This would seem to indicate that the water was beginning to drop significantly. This is roughly two months later. Then in verse six we are told that Noah opened the single window of the ark after forty days and in verse seven he sent out a raven “until the waters were dried up from off the earth.” It is likely from this that Noah opened the window after the forty days of rain, before they set down in the mountains of Ararat.

So the actual timeline would be that after the forty days of rain, Noah opened the window of the ark and sent out the raven until the waters were dried up from of the earth. This passage of time would be from the middle of the forth month (remember, Noah entered the ark on the 17th day of the 2nd month plus forty days of rain would make it in the middle of the fourth month) to the 1st day of the seventh month when the ark rested upon the mountains.

In verse eight it states that he also sent out a dove. But it returned because it could not find a place to land because the “waters [were] on the face of the whole earth.” This is an interesting verse, and clearly it, like verses six and seven, is giving more specific details about the events inside the ark during the deluge.

Again, during the same amount of time that the raven was sent out Noah was also sending a dove out once every seven days. Note that the timeframe in which the dove is gone is not mentioned. People tend to assume that it was the same day, but that is not dictated scripturally and it is highly possible that the dove flew around for several days before returning to the ark between the seven day periods. At any rate, within three to five weeks of Noah opening the window of the ark, the dove returned with an olive branch (Genesis 8:11), indicating that the waters were already going down and vegatation was already beginning to grow again. But Noah waited another seven days and sent the dove out again and it did not return, indicating that it had found a roost. This took place sometime between the sixth and tenth months, with the likelihood being that it was closer to the sixth than the tenth, based upon internal evidence.

This indicates that by the sixth month, the vegetation had already begun to grow. The Bible states that Noah did not depart from the ark until the second month of the next year. That gives the surrounding world a total of eight more months of recovery without intervention by Noah or any of the survivors, allowing the ecosystem to recover long before animals began to eat the plants again.

For how plants could have survived the flood, see Q18: How did Plants Survive the Flood?

Insects would have survived by burrowing into the ground, as they often do during floods, and hitching rides on the huge floating log and vegetation mats that would have been floating on the surface of the water. Most of these likely would have come from the known billions floating in the air column at altitudes of even 15,000 feet (Swenson and Catchpool 2000).

Now that the resiliance of the creation has been established, the issue of what the animals ate can be addressed.

What did they eat?

Noah finally allowed the departure from the ark to begin during the second month. There are several possible solutions to the problem of the carnivores eating the herbivores before they could repopulate. There is nothing to suggest that Noah simply tossed the animals out of the ark and let them have at each other haphazardly.

The ark was well stocked with provisions for both herbivores and carnivores. Noah could very well have allowed the herbivores to depart first, to allow them to establish populations before releasing the carnivores.

There is no scriptural evidence to indicate that the animals were not procreating during the flood, allowing the number of animals departing from the ark to be greater. The size of the ark could easily acommodate additional animals, with only 36% taken up by animals and only 15% of food provisions and water was only 9.4%. Allowing the maximums of each of these, to make it as crowded as possible, food, animals, and water take up only 61.4% of the total ark size. The ark could have maintained a much larger population, even with these maximum numbers, without taking into account various methods of conserving space (for more on the size of the ark, see Q4: How Could the Ark Hold all Those Animals?). It is interesting to note that the reproduction rates of elk after the devistation at Mount St. Helens was close to the highest ever recorded (Swenson and Catchpool 2000). Given that the whole earth was devistated after the flood, it is likely that reproduction rates were heightened considerably.

Just as carnivores in zoos soon become tamed to being fed, it is possible that the carnivores on the ark would have become somewhat tame and would have only reverted to catching their own food after the provisions on the ark ran out. Also, recognizing an easier meal without having to chase and kill prey, the carnivores could have hung around the immediate ark area and recieving free meals. Just like the old adage: don’t feed wild animals or they will keep coming back.

Predator/prey ratios are an additional issue, but one that is fairly easily resolved. Predators that must chase their prey over fairly open ground (as the post-flood world would have been until the new trees could grow up again) are very unsuccessful, precentage wise. For example, success rate on elk is about 20% (Murry 2002), forcing Natural Selection to take over, and forcing the predators to attack the weak, slow, and crippled. So it is clear that the predator/prey ratio is not a particularly problematic issue.

It is clear that “problems” with recovery after the flood are not actually problems at all, when analyzed.

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