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Explainer: Impact of wildfires on wildlife and their habitats | WGN Radio 720

Flagstaff, Arizona (AP) — Porcupines were walking slower and funny than usual.

Their steps involved some residents of the South Lake Tahoe district who called the rehab center. Porcupines were found to have suffered extensive burns to their feet, fur, quill and face after a wildfire burned the area.

Wildlife centers in the western United States take care of animals that have been unable to escape the flames and are looking for food in burned-out areas.

Dennis Upton, head of animal welfare for Lake Tahoe wildlife care, said the recently discovered declining turkey vulture on the shores of Lake Tahoe could not fly.

“That’s what we see in the aftermath of a fire-only animals that are struggling and being pushed into areas where they aren’t traditionally,” she said.

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Is fire good or bad for wildlife?

Not necessarily either, says Brian Wolfer, game program manager at the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.

“It’s the landscape turbulence that changes the habitat,” he said.

Some species benefit from wildfires, including birds of prey that hunt rodents that run from flames, beetles that move to dead trees and spawn, and woodpeckers that feed on them and nest in hollow trees.

The fire exposes new grasses, shrubs and vegetation that feed elks and deer during the flowering season. Female deer produce more milk and fawns grow faster when food sources are plentiful, Wolfer said.

On the contrary, animals that rely on primeval forests can struggle for decades to find a suitable habitat if a tree is the victim of a fire, Wolfer said. When the Greater Sage Chrysanthemum burns, it has no food in winter and no place to hide from predators and raise children.

“In the years that follow, survival will decline and over time, its population will begin to decline,” he said.

Some wildfires burn in a mosaic to protect their habitat. But the hotter and faster they burn, the harder it is for low-moving animals to find a suitable habitat, he said.

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How animals react to wildfires

Mouths, squirrels and other digging animals dig cool ground, bears climb trees, deer and bobcats run, small animals hide in logs, and birds fly to escape flames, heat and smoke.

Julia Camp, a resource manager for the Coconino National Forest in northern Arizona, said: “In many cases, their reaction is faster than us.”

Firefighters found a turtle with a sung foot on the edge of a wildfire, a snake slipping out of the forest, and a frail red-tailed hawk on the ground.

Biologists can take precautionary measures, such as moving the Mexican wolf referral pen or scooping up endangered or endangered fish if they know that a fire is approaching.

In 2012, a team of biologists joined in after a wildfire in the Gira Wilderness of southwestern New Mexico, saving Giramas from a flood of ash, soil, and burnt debris from heavy rains. The fish were sent to the hatchery, which replicated the habitat until they were returned.

Some animals cannot tolerate wildfires, but their deaths do not have a significant impact on the overall population, wildlife officials say.

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How wildlife affects fire management

When a wildfire breaks out in northern Arizona, the camp pulls out a map. She can see where Mexican spotted owls live, which fish live in which waterways, and where bald and golden eagles nest.

“If you install a bulldozer line, it’s not in the middle of their nesting site,” she said. “But if something is barreling towards the flag staff, we’ll have to put out the fire regardless.”

Some of those decisions are driven by the Federal Endangered Species Act.

In 2015, a wildfire threatened the Alligator River National Wildlife Sanctuary on the North Carolina coast. Firefighters cut lowland branches from the old pine trees that the bunting woodpecker nests and burned other potential fuel.

“The final event was that the fire approached the area, but these measures did not affect the woodpecker nesting site,” a spokeswoman for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said. Calicob says.

Firefighters can also use backburn to starve fuel wildfires, so the flames burn more violently in the canopy and at the base of the tree rather than threatening wildlife habitat.

Other considerations are involved when dropping flame retardants so that chemicals do not affect water sources or choke sensitive plants.

According to Camp, wildfire managers should carefully select water sources and disinfect buckets to avoid the movement of mussels, fungi and exotic plants that can hitchhike in helicopter buckets. It is said.

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How to spot injured animals

Injured animals move slowly or do not move at all. According to experts, the best behavior for humans is to stay away, do not feed animals, and call wildlife officials and rescue teams.

“Sometimes you don’t necessarily give them the benefits they think, if they get used to them and lose their fear of people,” Wol said. Farr said. “We have to think by helping it,’Am I going to reduce its long-term survival chance?’ Animals are tough, much tougher than we admit to them. is.”

The University of California, Davis-based Wildlife Disaster Network has accepted animals from several fires in California last year and other fires that burned in the Sierra Nevada Mountains this year. They include flying squirrel babies, fox babies, and bear cubs.

Staff will scan the animals for visible scars and perform blood tests, x-rays, and ultrasonography to plan their rehabilitation, said network-leading veterinarian Jamie Peyton.

“I really don’t think you can see a single entity and think,’It’s not worth it, it’s not worth trying,'” Peyton said.

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Will all animals be returned to the wild?

The ability of an animal to survive in the wild depends on the severity of the burn and the age of the animal.

Adult bears that have been burned are difficult to treat because they remove traditional bandages, and eating them can clog the intestines and force them to euthanize, Peyton said.

The bear she dealt with in 2017, named Lucy, forced her to think differently.

“I was really stuck trying to control the pain and despite my plea and some donuts she didn’t take the drug,” Peyton said.

Peyton has developed a tilapia skin bandage. It is currently used in 15 species, including the Lake Tahoe Wildlife Care Porcupine, whose foot was burned. Another porcupine in the center, according to Upton, will not be released until Quill is back and able to defend.

Adult bears and mountain lions are usually released within eight weeks, so they don’t get used to humans as caretakers, Peyton said.

From time to time, animals leave the rehab center on their own terms. The bear cub, found walking on his elbow, was rescued from a still-burning Tamarack fire south of Carson City, Nevada, and healed in the center of Lake Tahoe. The cub pushed away the broken door of the outdoor enclosure this summer.

“He was really pretty healed before he decided he didn’t want to be here anymore,” Upton said. “I’m sure he’s okay. He was a little wild bear.”

Explainer: Impact of wildfires on wildlife and their habitats | WGN Radio 720

Source link Explainer: Impact of wildfires on wildlife and their habitats | WGN Radio 720

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