Wildfires mean short term pain but long term gain for B.C. wildlife | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Wildfires mean short term pain but long term gain for B.C. wildlife

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Image Credit: FACEBOOK/Peter Sulzle
September 21, 2017 - 9:00 PM

KAMLOOPS - It may seem like wildfires would not be good for impacted wildlife, but the effects are not as bad as you may think.

Thousands of animals have had to leave their homes due to wildfires in B.C. this summer but while times are tough for wildlife now, the destruction that ripped through their habitats will also lead to a new and better beginning.

The coordinator of Wildsafe B.C. Frank Ritcey says it could take years before the ecosystems in badly burned areas are able return to form, but when they do, it will be better for the wildlife than before the fires burned up their homes.

"The deer, the moose and the bear all benefit from fire," he says. "Not in the short term... but nature quickly regenerates and we should see a positive response to the wildfires in the years ahead."

Ritcey says he is already seeing some areas starting to recover.

"When I drove through Cache Creek yesterday you could see there is already green grass coming in," he says. "So in some areas the response will be very quick. Here in Kamloops, the Dewdrop fire that started at the start of the summer has already greened up in area and the big horned sheep are already in there grazing on the plants that have come back."

However, before we reach the positive aspect of the summers wildfires, there will be a lot of hard times for the animals and many have been displaced. Ritcey says they have been seeing some species in areas they were never found before.

"We've captured an image of an elk moving through just north of Kamloops Lake and I have never seen them there," he says. "We are assuming they were displaced by the Elephant Hill fire."

This means we can expect to see more wildlife sightings in rural areas where you normally would not find as many animals, but with all things relating to ecosystems, nothing is quite that simple.

"I know that people want to be able to say there's a direct response but the truth of the matter is it's so complex it's really hard to draw hard and fast relationships between one event and another event happening," he says. "There are so many other things going on it's hard to say this is what's going to happen."

An interesting statistic Ritcey has noticed is the number of human interactions with bears. While the overall numbers for 2017 are well above last year, 264 compared to 112 by this time in 2016, recent numbers are telling a different story.

"This year we started with really high reporting levels, some of the highest since the program started," he says. "But now, in the fall, we're quite a bit lower than we were last year at this time."

He says two weekends ago they had just 11 reports after having 32 on the same weekend a year ago. He attributes this to the fact several homes around the Elephant Hill fire were still evacuated which meant there were no people around to interact with the bears.

So while Ritcey wants to stress that the fires are indeed a detriment to wildlife as they happen and in the immediate aftermath, nature has a way of making the best of things and the ecosystem will replenish and return better than ever.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Mike McDonald or call 250-819-3723 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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News from © iNFOnews, 2017

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