What happens to wildlife during wildfires?

Wildlife experts said animals such as white-tailed deer, black bears, wild hogs, and even...
Wildlife experts said animals such as white-tailed deer, black bears, wild hogs, and even turkeys, had to find a new place to live as recent wildfires burned through theirs.(WJHG/WECP)
Published: Mar. 16, 2022 at 6:04 PM CDT
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PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) - The recent Chipola Complex wildfires have scorched nearly 35,000 acres of the Panhandle, evacuating more than just residents.

According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, we had quite a few white-tailed deer, black bears, wild hogs, and even turkeys. But all of those animals had to find a new place to live as these fires burned through theirs.

“Wildlife are very, very nimble. Whenever they smell smoke they move out of the area,” Florida Forest Service Operations Administrator Michael Klassen said.

Some species can move quickly. But sadly, others are left behind.

“The fire probably displaced hundreds of thousands of wild animals,” Alaqua Animal Refuge Wildlife Director Shelby Proie said. “It’s sad that we’re at the beginning of baby season so, therefore, some birds that might have eggs or young nests really don’t have means of getting those babies out of harm’s way.”

Wildlife experts said neighboring areas will probably see a few more animals than usual, just until the fires die out and new green starts to grow.

“We start having springtime conditions is all those grasses will start to sprout and those are really tender new shoots,” Klassen said. “And a lot of animals love to eat them.”

There are some species that actually benefit from these fires. Klassen said Red-Cockaded Woodpeckers and Gopher Tortoises are just two examples of that.

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