🔥The threat posed by fires🔥… to wildlife

By Craig Shapiro


Last year, 66,255 wildfires erupted in the U.S., burning through more than 7.3 million acres from California to the Florida Panhandle. It was the most fires since 2017, and those were the ones that were reported. The final count is bound to be higher.

This year, wildfire season has already begun, though the threat never seems to diminish, thanks to a warming climate that turns forests and grasslands into tinderboxes.

And it’s not just humans’ lives and homes that are again imperiled. Springtime is a time to remember deer, birds, fish, reptiles – and their offspring – all the animals who can be killed or displaced by fires.

It’s impossible to know exactly how many. The massive 2020 North Complex fire in California torched more than 318,000 acres, uprooting countless bears and coyotes along with anyone else in its path. That same year, an estimated 480 million animals perished in bushfires in New South Wales, Australia.

The impacts of wildfires on animals are immediate, debilitating and often life-threatening — and familiar to humans who’ve survived a fire. Thick smoke disorients them, irritates their eyes and makes it hard for them to breathe. Larger animals may try to outrun the flames, if there’s time. At its peak, the North Complex fire scorched 1,000 acres every 30 minutes. Small animals may try to shelter under rocks and in burrows. Those with babies or who are trapped by fences or other structures may not escape.

Fish and marine mammals, including manatees and sea otters, suffer, too. Toxic residue from plastics burned by wildfires runs off into waterways. Plants and brush disintegrate into nitrogen, phosphorus and other nutrients that can create dangerous algae blooms when they’re swept into aquatic ecosystems.

Species that return annually to the same breeding grounds and nesting sites are especially threatened by habitat loss. Others leave in search of food and, when they enter unfamiliar territory, are threatened by new predators and territorial disputes and are forced to compete for limited resources.

Most naturally occurring wildfires are sparked by lightning. Preventing them would likely take nothing short of divine intervention. But every year, more than 19,500 reported fires are triggered by fireworks. Although exploding and airborne fireworks pose the greatest danger to lives and homes, sparklers, fountains and smoke bombs can ignite fires, too.

Fireworks also terrify dogs and cats: they may run into the street after fleeing their home in an attempt to escape the confusing, deafening blasts. It’s not uncommon for panicked dogs to break through windows and screen doors or dig under fences.

How can we help wildlife trying to escape a fire? 🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥

Resist feeding them so they don’t become dependent.

Don’t chase them away (they’re already scared, so let them rest before moving along).

Keep dogs away from them.

Be on the watch for those who wander into roadways and report injured animals to the authorities.

The starting point, though, is to help protect animals and their habitats by eliminating our role in igniting wildfires:
🔥🔥🔥Report unattended fires, thoroughly extinguish campfires and fire pits, keep vehicles off dry grass, don’t throw lit or smoldering cigarettes from your car or truck and check the weather conditions before burning trash or leaves.🔥🔥🔥

And by all means, leave fireworks in the package.