Wildfire vs. Wildlife: Fleeing the Castle Fire

Wildfire vs. Wildlife
Bears will flee the forest as wildfire comes their way. Three Rivers residents should prepare in advance and ensure their garbage is secure and inaccessible to all wildlife.

Each day as the reports from the Castle Fire are released, there is always one piece of good news:
First Responder Fatalities – 0 / Civilian Fatalities – 0

This could change any day as this business of wildfire is dangerous to anyone involved. And besides humans, there are other living beings that also work and play in these mountains. Dealing with the Castle Fire are bears, deer, mountain lions, bobcat, coyote, fox, marmot, raccoons, skunk, opossum, squirrels, and the lesser-seen pine marten, fisher, and wolverine, as well as many other mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, and invertebrates. All of these have a role to play in the ecosystem, as does fire. Wildfire vs. Wildlife

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Wildfire vs. Wildlife
A coyote sings a mournful song at Lake Kaweah.

 

Wildfire vs. Wildlife
A slow-moving, gentle Sierra newt will hopefully escape fire by going underground or under boulders as many of their seasonal water sources are dry this time of year.

But something is unnatural. The forests. There is too much understory, too much standing-dead, too much parched vegetation, and not enough regular, low-intensity fire. So the forest is ablaze and the fauna is in survival mode.

The larger animals will flee the area. Some mammals, reptiles, and amphibians will burrow underground or stand in water. Many perish, including older animals, the young, and animals that are injured or already ill from other causes are the most susceptible.

Remember the first forest fire you ever saw? Most likely it was while watching Bambi. All the animals fleeing the man-caused fire and, traumatically for most children (or maybe it was just me), Bambi’s mother didn’t survive the flames. Thanks, Disney. Wildfire vs. Wildlife

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Wildfire vs. Wildlife
Two Three Rivers bucks staying out of harm’s way.
Wildfire vs. Wildlife
Bear in a Sequoia meadow.

As is the case with humans, animals will absolutely feel the effects of smoke inhalation in their respiratory systems. While our throats burning and eyes scratchy and watering, it’s impossible to imagine that animals aren’t also suffering. Wildfire vs. Wildlife

There isn’t much scientific research on the negative effects of smoke from wildfires on birds. Although citizen scientists in the southwest began reporting a mass die-off of migrating birds in the southwest in late August 2020 that has been linked to California’s wildfires and the climate crisis.

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Wildfire vs. Wildlife
A rubber boa senses danger and slithers slowly away.
Wildfire vs. Wildlife
A bobcat cools off in the shade during the hot Three Rivers summer.

 

Wildfire vs. Wildlife
Marmots have few predators aside from wildfire and humans.

How humans can help

—Drive defensively to avoid a collision with wildlife on roadways. They may be in unfamiliar territory or fleeing danger. This is also the time of year when migrating animals are crossing roadways anyway so slow down and be aware.

—Keep food out for birds (available at Three Rivers Mercantile) to bulk them up for their continued migration. (If you have visitation from bears, it’s more important to remove the food source than feed the birds).

—Have water sources available for mammals and birds. Natural sources of water are best, however, if you do choose to provide water for wildlife and birds, the container must be emptied and refilled with fresh water daily (and bleached once a week with a 9:1 bleach solution, then rinsed and dried thoroughly before refilling to prevent the spread of disease). Only putting water out for a short period will also minimize the risks. Wildfire vs. Wildlife

—And, not to sound like a broken record but, LOCK UP YOUR TRASH CANS. Bears will be wandering into town as they escape the flames or just head to lower elevations as the days shorten and the nights cool down. Three Rivers had an abundant acorn crop this year, a favorite fattening food source for bears. So don’t be THAT neighbor. All Three Rivers residents know by now to secure their garbage.

Bear Ed 101: If it belongs to a human and has a smell, it should be kept away from bears.

 

National park messaging works in Three Rivers too.

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3 thoughts on “Wildfire vs. Wildlife: Fleeing the Castle Fire

  • September 24, 2020 at 9:01 am
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    Thank you so much, Elliotts, for the daily coverage of this most concerning fire. Thanks also for the reminder to secure your garbage cans! You are appreciated!

    Reply
  • September 24, 2020 at 9:14 am
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    Thank you for remembering that we are not the only beings that call this area home. I’m always disturbed by reports that claim “no lives lost” – when what is clearly being reported is “no human lives” lost.

    Reply
  • September 24, 2020 at 12:36 pm
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    I noticed that my usual ‘twitter feed’ was non-existent up in Mineral King a couple weeks ago as the smoke was becoming unbearable, and most animals can’t just vamoose, but the winged ones can.

    Reply

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