Saturday, August 17, 2013

Idaho Wildfires Claim Tragic Toll on Wildlife

Posted By on Sat, Aug 17, 2013 at 9:35 AM

With more than 130 square miles charred by wildfires in South-Central Idaho, emergency responders have focused on protecting residents and tourists—so far approximately 1,600 homes have been evacuated. But the massive blaze is also causing immeasurable havoc to Idaho wildlife.

A U.S. Forest Service wildlife biologist, following an aerial survey of the Elk Fire Complex on Aug. 15, said a number of animals and birds had been killed by the fires. Understanding that there were countless animals that were probably killed in the backcountry, USFS biologist Scott Bodle said he spotted the corpses of 14 elk, 31 mule deer, one bear, one osprey, one coyote and one raccoon. Additionally, a number of birds were spotted on the ground, apparently dead of asphyxiation.

Most of the animals were seen in small groups at the upper ends of drainages, where they were unable to escape when conditions quickly deteriorated. The flight crew also observed hundreds of live deer and elk roaming in burned-out areas.

To date, wildlife biologists have been unable to survey the Beaver Creek Fire Complex, which has burned approximately 92,000 acres in Blaine County and threatened the communities of Hailey, Ketchum and Sun Valley.

Hundreds of firefighting personnel are on the scene of the Beaver Creek wildfire, including five 20-person Hotshot crews and two more crews being dispatched to the scene today. Additionally, Hotshot crews from other wildfires that are more contained have been reassigned to the Beaver Creek wildfire.

Meanwhile, low humidity and tinder-dry weather conditions will not help firefighters anytime soon.

A Yellow Air Quality Alert has been issued for the Treasure Valley for Saturday as smoke continues to haunt the Boise Valley. Saturday's temperatures should be near 100 degrees.

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