Burro Fire could be good for Mount Lemmon wildlife

Published: Jul. 19, 2017 at 10:50 AM MST|Updated: Mar. 2, 2018 at 11:20 AM MST
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TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - The Burro Fire has burned 27,238 acres and is now 100 percent contained according the U.S. Forest Service.

Public Information Officer Heidi Schewel said, "We are watching it on a daily basis, ready to take action if needed, until it is controlled [or] out, which will occur after all areas of the fire receive significant precipitation. There may still be areas of  heat on the interior until then."

With the fire under control, Arizona Game and Fish Officials are looking at the wildfire's effect on wildlife.

Mark Hart, public information officer with Arizona Game and Fish, says the scorched trees and plants are actually good for the animals on Mount Lemmon.

"A wildfire is a naturally occurring phenomenon," he said. "We don't know the cause of the Burro Fire yet, but often wildfires spark by lightning, so that's nature's way of cleaning up the habitat and making it healthier in the long term even though it can appear devastating."

Hart mentioned changes in animal populations after the Monument Fire in Sierra Vista in 2011 and the Buster Mountain Fire in 2015.

"There is a misconception about wildfires, maybe due to Disney movies like 'Bambi,' where fire overruns wildlife. That really rarely happens. When we lose wildlife in fires typically they are already overcome by smoke because they get entrapped, say in a box canyon that they can not easily get out of, but over the long haul it is beneficial," Hart said.

Animal experts believe within the next few years, the deer population on Mount Lemmon will increase into the thousands because of the Burro Fire. The number of mountain lions expected to go up as well.

"But here's the other thing, dense vegetation conceals predators that kill wildlife, like deer and big horned sheep," Hart said. "So if there is less dense brush the chances for survival of those species are better."

Already, Arizona Game and Fish has spotted deer foraging in the burned area where new shoots are sprouting.

Hart doesn't think the bear population will be effected much by the Burro Fire aftermath since bears live above 5,000 feet, and the fire was below that.

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