Oregon authorities say wildfires 'can be good for wildlife'

The Douglas Forest Protective Association says a forester working on the Horse Prairie Fire snapped this photo of a bear cub clinging to a tree. (Photo courtesy Douglas Forest Protective Association).

With more than a dozen large fires burning in the state, Oregon's Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) is addressing concerns about plants and animals.

An agency staff member told KATU on Tuesday that most species know how to adapt and react to wildfires. He said some species handle fire differently than others and that there are areas of concern.

"Wildlife have coexisted and coevolved with wildfires for a very, very, very long time," said Derek Broman, a specialist with ODFW. "This level of disturbance can be good for wildlife because it knocks out some of the non-natives and allows those that have truly evolved in this area to flourish."

Broman said many small creatures that burrow and hide like frogs, salamanders and rabbits may die in fires but survivors then reproduce in large numbers.

And he said animals like birds, deer, bobcats and bears can usually escape from flames and thrive afterwards.

When asked what went through his mind while being shown a photo of a bear cub clinging to a burned-out tree, Broman said, "Well, one, that cub's still alive and so they likely will still be doing just fine foraging for the prey that they need, the food that they need for going into winter."

The photo was recently tweeted out by the Douglas Forest Protective Association, which said it was snapped by a forester working on the Horse Prairie Fire.

Broman said authorities usually don't find animals that are burned or hurt like Cinder, the cub in Washington that was treated for injuries a couple of years ago.

"It's pretty rare but we do have permits and professionals in place to help rehabilitate wildlife if it's needed," Broman explained.

He said a big concern after wildfires is invasive species -- plants and animals that don't belong, moving into an area.

"If the ecosystem is functioning properly, we'll see the same native species showing up and everything will be hunky dory," said Broman.

He said people should not feed wild animals.

"They’re recovering, they’re rebounding themselves," Broman said. "We’ve not gotten any reports of wildlife finding their way into urban areas looking for foods. They’re doing just fine.”

If you want to help, Broman recommended volunteering with a fish hatchery, a biologist or a state or federal program.

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