Wildfires consume hundreds of thousands of acres of grass lands and forests every year… and those areas are filled with all kinds of species of animals. When threatened by fire, or smoke, an animals instincts for safety kick in. Escape is the only option, but that escape can look different depending on the species. For birds it’s a quick flight out of the smoke. Small reptiles and rodents often burrow deeper to escape topsoil temperatures that can reach 221 degrees Fahrenheit, according to the U.S. Forest Service. Larger mammals tend to move out of their threatened territory. Escaping large wildfires can have animals like bears, cougars, bobcats, raccoons and coyotes traveling for days with little rest, food, or water.
HOW TO HELP
Odds are, people in rural areas or wild land interface areas near fire lines are seeing more animals than normal. The most helpful thing we can do is leave water out for these animals and let them pass through. Shallow containers with water and a tree branch will allow both larger animals and birds to get a much needed drink of water. We recommend these be placed away from areas used by people such as decks, swing sets and driveways. Keeping domestic animals and pet food (or other sources of food) indoors is crucial. It’s important that animals not be harassed or fed.
Wildlife will return to areas impacted by wildfire. How long that takes depends on how much damage was done. If the original area is charred and blackened animals will return only after things green up which can take some time. Remember animals need food, water, and a safe home which often means ground cover or trees to build nests on. Wildfires act like a reset button and in some ways this can be beneficial. If an area is less impacted or was just smoked out birds and other animals will return in a matter of days once the danger has passed.