Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Big-game animals should survive fire

Many small animals won?t make it


By GREG MOORE
Express Staff Writer

    A big wildfire like the Beaver Creek Fire has a variety of effects on the animals that live there—some die, some escape and some even flourish.
    The big-game animals in the Smoky Mountains will probably outrun the Beaver Creek Fire, said Randy Smith, wildlife biologist with the Idaho Department of Fish and Game.
    “I don’t suspect that big-game-wise we’ve lost a lot of critters,” he said.
    The question, he said, is whether they will be able to survive the winter.
    Smith said deer don’t winter much in the Smoky Mountains—they move east and south—but elk do.


I don’t suspect that
big-game-wise we’ve lost a lot of critters.”
Randy Smith
Idaho Department of Fish and Game


    “Winter is usually the bottleneck for these big-game animals,” he said. “The concern in these deep-snow areas is browse.” “Browse” is what wildlife biologists call vegetation—food for big game.
    Smith said some elk and deer in the area have been fitted with radio transmitters, and once fire-fighting aircraft clear out of the airspace, biologists from the Idaho Department of Fish and Game will be able to fly over and monitor the animals.
    “We’ll see where the fire has pushed them,” he said.
    He said the elk that make it through the first winter could benefit from the fire as it prompts new growth, particularly of aspen stands, which provide shaded areas for grass and forbs.
    As aggressive as it seemed, Smith said, the Beaver Creek Fire hasn’t matched the fast-moving intensity of the Elk Complex Fire, which is burning farther west in the Boise National Forest. In that fire, he said, several dozen deer and elk and one bear have been reported killed.
    However, Smith said that the Beaver Creek Fire will affect bears by burning up their usual fall foods.
    “There will be lots of black bears more inclined to show up in town,” he predicted.
    He said that was the case following the Castle Rock Fire in 2007, and one bear has already appeared in Fairfield.
    While the large animals can usually outrun a fire, many of the small ones “don’t have a chance,” said Regional Wildlife Biologist Ross Winton
     He said ground-burrowing mammals can survive a low-intensity grass-and-sagebrush fire, but often not a hot fire burning in timber. He said that even those that burrow deep enough to escape the heat are often overcome by smoke. Even birds, he said, can die by getting disoriented trying to fly through dense smoke.
    However, he said, “There are a lot of animals that home in on and take advantage of the fire.”
    He said some wasps and beetles lay their eggs in recently burned stumps.
    “You’ll see a huge increase in the insect population, then the birds and some mammals come in,” he said.
    He said that even the species that were nearly wiped out will repopulate the area quickly.
    “The system has evolved—they’ll file back in once the habitat starts improving,” he said.




About Comments

Comments with content that seeks to incite or inflame may be removed.

Comments that are in ALL CAPS may be removed.

Comments that are off-topic or that include profanity or personal attacks, libelous or other inappropriate material may be removed from the site. Entries that are unsigned or contain signatures by someone other than the actual author may be removed. We will take steps to block users who violate any of our posting standards, terms of use or any other policies governing this site. Use of this system denotes full acceptance of these conditions. Please review the full rules governing commentaries and discussions. You are fully responsible for the content that you post.

The comments below are from the readers of mtexpress.com and in no way represent the views of Express Publishing, Inc.

You may flag individual comments. You may also report an inappropriate or offensive comment by clicking here.

Flagging Comments: Flagging a comment tells a site administrator that a comment is inappropriate. You can find the flag option by pointing the mouse over the comment and clicking the 'Flag' link.

Flagging a comment is only counted once per person, and you won't need to do it multiple times.

Proper Flagging Guidelines: Every site has a different commenting policy - be sure to review the policy for this site before flagging comments. In general these types of comments should be flagged:

  • Spam
  • Ones violating this site's commenting policy
  • Clearly unrelated
  • Personal attacks on others
Comments should not be flagged for:
  • Disagreeing with the content
  • Being in a dispute with the commenter

Popular Comment Threads



 Local Weather 
Search archives:


Copyright © 2014 Express Publishing Inc.   Terms of Use   Privacy Policy
All Rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part in any form or medium without express written permission of Express Publishing Inc. is prohibited. 

The Idaho Mountain Express is distributed free to residents and guests throughout the Sun Valley, Idaho resort area community. Subscribers to the Idaho Mountain Express will read these stories and others in this week's issue.