Wildfires took a heavy toll on animals living in the wild

Wildfires took a heavy toll on animals living in the wild

Friday, November 14, 2003
Source: Associated Press

LOS ANGELES — The wildfires that chewed through Southern California left a trail of dead, injured, and displaced animals, but scientists say wildlife could eventually benefit from a rejuvenated forest.

The fires burned in a typical mosaic pattern, leaving islands of vegetation that provided a refuge for the animals who did survive, biologists said.

Those animals will benefit in the long term when scorched areas rebound with lush growth of plants, said Doug Updike, a biologist with the California Department of Fish and Game.

“I would expect there will actually be a greater abundance and diversity of wildlife soon as a result of the wildfires,” Updike said.

Meanwhile, the injured are being tended to. They include two 10-month-old bear cubs with burned feet. Firefighters found the bears in the San Bernardino Mountains on Nov. 4, and the pair is recuperating at Moonridge Animal Park, said animal keeper Christy McGiveron. One bear has swollen feet and burns, and the pads on the other bear’s rear feet were completely burned off.

“They’re not walking yet, but the goal is to release them into the wild in a couple of weeks,” McGiveron said.

In Orange County, about 50 dead ducks were found floating in the Santa Ana River early this week. The Orange County Water District was testing the water and the birds Wednesday to determine what caused their deaths. Possible causes of death included botulism, a bacteria disease, and smoke inhalation, said water district spokesman Ron Wildermuth.

In an effort to save endangered mountain yellow-legged frogs that live in the San Bernardino mountains, biologists this week captured 11 juvenile frogs and brought them to the Los Angeles Zoo. The scientists decided to relocate the frogs to preserve the gene pool in case a heavy storm sends mud and debris flowing into the creek where the frogs live and breed.

“It was to try to get an insurance policy,” said Jane Hendron, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Fewer than 100 adult frogs were counted in the last survey of yellow-legged frogs in Southern California, Hendron said.

The Fish and Wildlife Service has just begun to analyze the effects of the wildfires on threatened species, she said, and it was “impossible” to calculate how many died or were injured.
By Daisy Nguyen, Associated Press



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