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ODFW officials fear wildfire loss of reintroduced mountain goats, fish

There can also be some wildlife benefits in what fires leave behind

BEND, Ore (KTVZ) -- As crews continue to fight wildfires across the state, the Oregon Department of Fish and wildlife is starting to address concerns about potential wildlife losses from the blazes that roared through large areas of forests and wilderness.

While officials and experts say that animals like deer and elk are able to flee such events and adapt afterwards, they do say there are some species that may be seriously affected, even devastated.

Central Oregon ODFW biologist Corey Heath said Tuesday he is concerned about the recently introduced mountain goat population in the central Cascades.

"The mountain goats are not very mobile, they're very habitat-specific." he said. "The bulk of the population is on these isolated little cliff faces scattered throughout the forest, and they're very closely associated with vertical rock habitat. So if a fire is coming, they don't have a lot of other habitat to escape to or out of the range of the fire.

Also on the mind of ODFW officials is the possible loss of fish populations, affected by the aftermath of the fires.

Spokeswoman Michelle Dennehy explained, "After you have a wildfire like that, there's always a risk of mudslides and debris flow and that can cause those localized die-offs, and change water chemistry, turbidity and all that sort of thing."

And while these negative effects are worrisome, Heath said fires also can have a positive impact for some population.

"They produce a lot of early seral stages, forage conditions, which the deer and elk love. So I mean, I know these fires are catastrophic, but at least up at the higher elevations they do have to potential to do
some good things for deer and elk habitat," he said.

Fire ecologist Lisa Ellsworth said now is the time for some animals to come in and start the rebuilding process

"The first things we usually see out there are woodpeckers are one of the important ones," she said. "And a lot of them have actually been in decline in recent years because there hasn't been a lot of fire. And they need those big, standing dead trees.

"So they'll go evacuate out holes in the snags, and they'll leave that hole behind, and other animals will actually start using it. So some of our small mammals will come in, things like songbirds will come in. They'll use that cavity, and in using it they'll deposit seeds in there feces that they leave behind. and those seeds will start to grow the early plants. We'll also start to see some pollinators early on."

ODFW said there have been no documented instances of wildfires wiping out entire populations of species.

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Blake Allen

Blake Allen is a multimedia journalist for NewsChannel 21. Learn more about Blake here.


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