Residents in South Lake Tahoe called rehabilitation centers after they were alarmed by their stride. After a wildfire had decimated the area, it turned out that the porcupines suffered extensive burns to their faces, fur, and paws.
The U.S. West has wildlife centers that care for animals that were unable to flee the flames, or who are searching for food in burnt-over areas.
According to Denise Upton (animal care director at Lake Tahoe Wildlife Care), an emaciated turkey-vulture found recently on Lake Tahoe's shore couldn't fly due to a shortage of food in burnt areas.
She said, "That's what you're seeing in fire aftermath -- animals having a hard job and being pushed into places they're not used to,"
Is FIRE GOOD FOR WILDLIFE OR A DRAIN?
Brian Wolfer, game program manager at the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, said that neither is necessary.
He said, "It's an interference on the landscape that alters habitat."
Wildfire is good for some species, including raptors that hunt rodents and beetles, which move into dead wood to lay eggs and woodpeckers who feed on them.
The flowering stage of elk or deer is aided by fire, which exposes new grasses, shrubs, and vegetation. Wolfer stated that when food sources are plentiful, females produce more milk and fawns develop faster.
Wolfer stated that animals who depend on old growth forests may have to struggle for years to find suitable habitat, if they are destroyed by fire. He said that if sagebrush is burned, the sage grouse will not have food or shelter from predators in winter.
He said, "In the years to come, you will see a reduction in survival, and over time, that population begins to decline."
Wildfires can burn in a mosaic pattern, conserving some habitat. He said that the faster and hotter they burn, the more difficult it is for animals with less mobility to find suitable habitat.
HOW ANIMALS REACT TO WILDFIRE
Mice, squirrels, and other burrowing creatures dig into cooler ground; bears climb trees; deer and bobcats race; small animals hide in logs; birds fly to escape the heat, flames, and smoke.
Julia Camp, who is a resource manager at the Coconino National Forest, in northern Arizona, said that "they almost seem to have sixth sense to it." "A lot of the times their response time is faster than ours."
Firefighters have seen tortoises and snakes at the wildfire's edge, as well as snakes and red-tailed hawks crawling on the ground.
Camp stated that biologists can take preventive measures like moving the introductory pens for Mexican graywolves or grabbing endangered fish when they sense a fire approaching.
A team of biologists rushed in 2012 to help Gila trout avoid potential flooding from heavy rains, ash, soil, and charred debris. They were then sent to hatcheries that reproduced their habitat, until they could be reintroduced.
Officials from wildlife agencies say that while some animals may not survive wildfires their deaths do not significantly impact the overall population.
HOW WILDLIFE FACTORS INTO FIIRE MANAGEMENT
Camp pulls out her maps when wildfires break out north of Arizona. Camp can identify where Mexican spotted Owls are found, what fish lives in which waterways and where golden and bald eagles nest.
She stated that if a dozer is to be put in, it will not be in the middle or nesting area of the birds. "But if there is something coming towards Flagstaff, we will have to put out that fire regardless."
The federal Endangered Species Act is a factor in some of these decisions.
A wildfire threatened the Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge, North Carolina coast in 2015. Firefighters removed low-lying pine branches from the nesting areas of red-cockaded woodpeckers, and burned any other fuel.
U.S. stated that while the fire did reach the area, the measures ensured that the nesting areas of woodpeckers were not affected. Kari Cobb, Fish and Wildlife Service spokesperson.
Backburns can also be used to starve wildfires off fuel. This allows them to burn at the base rather than in the crowns, and is more beneficial for wildlife habitat.
There are other considerations when dropping fire retardant to ensure that chemicals don't cause water damage or poison sensitive plants.
Camp stated that wildfire managers try to avoid the transfer of mussels, fungi, or other non-native plants in helicopter buckets. They do this by carefully selecting water sources and disinfecting buckets.
HOW TO IDENTIFY AN INJURED ANIMAL
Animals that have been injured will not move at all or slow down. Experts advise that humans should keep distance from injured animals, not feed them and to call wildlife officials or rescue groups.
Wolfer stated that sometimes you are not doing them the right thing. Wolfer explained that they may become habituated or lose their fear of people. We must ask ourselves, "Am I going to decrease its long-term survival ability?" Animals are tougher than we think.
The Wildlife Disaster Network, based at the University of California in Davis, accepted animals from numerous fires in California and other areas that were burning this year in Sierra Nevada. These include a baby flying squirrel and a baby fox, as well as bear cubs.
Jamie Peyton, a veterinarian who leads the network, stated that the staff scans animals for visible injuries and performs blood work and ultrasounds to create a rehabilitation plan.
Peyton stated, "I think it's impossible to look at one being and say, 'It's worth it, it isn't worth trying.'"
Are ALL ANIMALS RETURNED to THE WILD?
The severity of burns and age determine whether an animal can survive wild.
Peyton stated that it is difficult to treat burned bears because they tear off traditional wraps and if they eat them, it can clog their intestines, forcing them to be put down.
Lucy, a bear Lucy was able to force her to change her mind after she treated it in 2017.
Peyton stated, "I was really stuck trying to control pain, and she wouldn’t take the medication, even my pleas for some doughnuts."
Peyton created a tilapia skin wrap that can be used on 15 species of animals, including the porcupine at Lake Tahoe Wildlife Care who had its paws burned. Upton stated that another porcupine at the center will not be released until its quills are fully grown back to defend itself.
Peyton stated that adult bears and mountain lions are usually released within eight weeks to avoid them becoming accustomed to their caretakers.
Sometimes animals can leave rehabilitation centers at their own pace. The Lake Tahoe center treated a bear cub who was found on its elbows walking in the Tamarack Fire south of Carson City. This summer, the cub broke through an outdoor enclosure's malfunctioning door and fled.
Upton stated that Upton had seen Upton heal quite a lot before he decided he did not want to be here anymore. He's doing well, I'm quite confident. He was a wild little bear."