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Endangered Species Hit Hard By Arizona Wildfire

Arizona FireA few weeks ago, you may remember hearing about the Arizona wildfire, which happened to be one of the largest in the state’s history.  Dozens of families were forced to relocate from the area, but humans weren’t the only ones affected by the blaze.  The fire has also had a serious impact on the area’s ecosystem.

More than 30 homes were destroyed causing residents to move with nothing but the clothes on their backs.  Much the same could be said for the region’s animals.  A few packs of Mexican gray wolves were spared – they’re an endangered species.  Unfortunately, quite a few Mexican spotted owls weren’t as lucky.  The fire destroyed more than 500,000 acres of forest on the New Mexican border.

Because some of the adult wolves have been fitted with radio collars, scientists know that most of the three packs have survived.  Each pack had pups and were in their dens when the fire broke out on May 29.  Firefighters have also seen at least two of the packs moving around the forest, however the fate of the pups is unknown.

Scientists did confirm that many of the threatened owl species have been lost, especially any nestlings or eggs.  Adult owls likely survived, as they were probably able to escape the fire by flying away.

So what happens to the animals?  They can’t really move to a new home like humans can.  Wildlife managers are actually trying to figure out what to do.  For example, the streams will be clogged with ash, so they did attempt to pull some endangered trout out of the water and relocate them to a safer area.

Experts have told us that the fire didn’t start because of any lightning or other natural event – humans started it.  The effect of this historically huge fire will last for decades – well beyond the lifetimes of many of the animals that survived.  Much of the landscape was been totally denuded while some areas only showed undergrowth damage.  Either way, many species have been harmed.

The fire burned so hot that many of the areas it destroyed were so completely ruined that nothing at all remains – they are lifeless.  Animals may not move back to the region naturally for some time.  This will ultimately affect regrowth and animal repopulation of course.  While this incredible fire destroyed the immediate forest, it will also have implications on nearby human lives.

Because so much of the forest was destroyed, forest managers have warned people in the area, especially those that live in the White Mountains, to invest in flood insurance.  Summer storms will definitely create a severe runoff and may cause flooding.  Those people may be forced to relocate during such time.

The tragic fire will have an effect on the areas throughout Arizona and New Mexico for years.  It may even affect the frequency of people relocating to the region or vacationing there.

Lance Grooms

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