Some of them even benefit
While the huge fire in Arizona has devastated an area greater than Rhode Island, there have been surprisingly few animal deaths.
In fact, the Arizona Game & Fish Department says that only one elk has been found dead. How come?
Unlike humans and the animals we domesticate, other animals are used to wildfires. Over thousands of years, they’ve learned to adapt – even to benefit from fire.
“Fire is natural,” said Jim Paxon of Arizona Fish & Game. “Fire is mother nature’s broom to sweep the floor clean.”
Paxon explained that large animals, like elk and deer, simply move away from the fire. Smaller ones are quick to burrow underground and stay there until the surface cools down.
Birds have more of a problem, especially if they have chicks in the nest who can’t yet fly. In many cases, they have to abandon them.
But for most animals, fire is part of the natural cycle of renewal. It gets more complicated when we humans set up our permanent homes and then try to stop fires from happening. In that case, the underbrush builds up and when fire eventually comes, which it will, it’s much bigger and take a larger toll.
Other animals don’t build permanent houses and cities like we do. So they evacuate, and then return as, within a few years, the new green shoots attract them back to a thriving environment.
“I have actually seen deer, with tingles of smoke still coming up out of the ash, out rolling in the ash,” Paxon said. “It removes the ticks. It’s kind of a dusting ritual.”