Friday, June 03, 2011

Fire evacuations in the Blue Range Wolf Recovery Area

(Bluestem uncollared wolves - Mexican Wolf Interagency Field Team)

The Wallow Fire in eastern Arizona is blazing right through the habitat of Mexican wolves. As headlines focus on mandatory evacuations and the necessary abandonment of towns for human safety, we haven't seen one news article that has mentioned the serious threats this fire poses to the most imperiled mammal in North America. (SEE UPDATE, BELOW)

While we've certainly got sympathy for our fellow humans who might lose their houses in this blaze, we can't help but note the enormity of this stochastic event on wolves already teetering on the brink of extinction. Three packs (Rim, Bluestem, and Hawk's Nest) are in harm's way, and any young pups in dens are surely doomed even if the parents make it to safe ground. Given the low numbers of wolves in the wild to begin with, any further losses creates a scary scenario.

We could rant and rave about the land management practices that create this situation, everything from climate alteration to changed fuel availability. But in light of the potential outcomes for Mexican wolves here, we don't much feel like it. Some other day, when the rains come and the smoke clears. Right now, we'll just hope against hope that those dens are deep, the fire leaps the canyons, and the critters and their ancient wisdom know what to do to survive.

UPDATE 6/6: There are now a couple of news stories about the impacts of the Wallow Fire on wolves.
Here and here.
Arizona Game and Fish Department has also issued a statement. Whenever AGFD tells us everything is hunky-dory, we get a sinking feeling in our stomachs.


Brookie4wolves said...

Leave it up to Wildlife, Fish & Game. They all are being paid by the politicians to kiss ranchers/farmers/hunters asses for money/votes. I thought they were suppose to protect animals, forests & the environment.

Anonymous said...

It seems to me that the reason for the fire would stem from over abundant fuel supplies. The ranchers help to control fire and overgrowth through grazing. It has been proven in many scientific, peer-reviewed studies that grazing is important for ecological diversity.

Ryan said...

Thats a load of crap. The allotments are generally over-grazed. They suffer from impaction and severe erosion in most cases. I wrote a paper on this and read a huge amount of research on it. A MODEST amount of grazing is helpful only in the absence of local fauna to do the job. Besides, cows don't eat pine seedlings and the problem is overcrowded forests from years of fire suppression. Grass and shrubs are not the kind of 'fuel' they are talking about. Its the step-ladder that allows the fire to get into the crowns of mature trees thats the problem. We can do some selective thinnning of mostly non-commercial saplings and dog-hair and then a regimen of controlled burns every 3-7 years. It will be really expensive though to do the intitial thinning though. They could probably offset some of the cost with selective loggin of medium diameter black jacks. Or I suppose we could just clearcut the whole thing. That would solve the problem right!