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The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Fire Management Program is responsible for protecting and restoring lands in all 50 states, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, Guam, American Samoa and Pacific Islands territories.

Is Fire Really Dangerous to Wildlife?

August 2009

A new magazine article co-authored by two Service fire information officers addresses public fears and explores assumptions about animals being burned in wildfires. The article concludes that while fires may sometimes kill individual animals, it generally has little or no impact on wildlife populations. In many cases, fire creates immediate and long-term benefits for wildlife.

Myth Busting About Wildlife and Fire: Are Animals Getting Burned? by Karen Miranda Gleason and Shawn Gillette was published in the Volume 69, No. 1 issue of Fire Management Today, a magazine distributed by the U.S. Forest Service. That issue is a special edition focused on wildland fire education.

The article was a result of gathering existing research and anecdotal evidence on wildlife response and mortality during a fire. It notes that low intensity, slow moving ground fires provide animals with a higher chance of escape than large, fast-moving, high intensity fires. The most likely individuals to perish are the very young and sick members of a population.

Gleason and Gillette also note that prescribed fire presents a good opportunity for protecting wildlife during a burn. For example, fire intensity and rate of spread can be planned and projects can be timed to avoid mating and nesting seasons. Prescribed fire can also clear overgrown vegetation and mitigate the risk of wildfire danger to both wildlife and people.

The special edition of Fire Management Today was coordinated by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service fire outreach specialist Catherine Hibbard. Hibbard also contributed two articles on the use of fire terminology and interagency messages with the public.

  Link to Fire Management Today publication  

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Last Updated: 08/06/2009