One of the enduring questions in the wake of those massive Texas wildfires is how did it affect wildlife? Surprisingly, not as much as you might think, according to Dr. Dale Rollins of the Rolling Plains Quail Research Ranch in Roby, Texas.
From his latest newsletter:
Much of the scorched acreage was some of Texas’ finest quail country. So how do quail, and the habitats they depend upon, respond to such conflagrations? One of the questions that often arises (usually from the media) is “how many wildlife were destroyed?” My answer is “hardly any” which seems to disappoint them. They want to extrapolate scenes from “Bambi” to the real world here in west Texas, and the truth of the matter is usually much less dramatic than Disney would portray. Even with the dramatic conflagrations we’ve seen over the past several weeks, I’d be surprised to hear of many deaths of game animals (deer, quail, turkey) with one possible exception: deer contained within (smaller) high-fenced (“deer-proofed”) enclosures. Otherwise wild animals will find a way around, over, or through the fire front and escape the fire’s wrath.
The timing of the fires from a quail’s perspective was of a Dr. Jekyll-Mr. Hyde fashion. On the one hand large areas are devoid of nesting cover here on the eve of the nesting season. On the other hand, had the areas burned in December a quail would have more threats (migratory raptors) than they might encounter now that the Cooper’s hawks and Northern harriers have likely moved further north. And if La Nina doesn’t relinquish its grip soon, the nesting season will likely be toast, even on sites that didn’t burn. So how long will it take quail to repopulate such areas? The answer hinges on several factors, including soil type, plant community, scale of the fire (on your respective property), rainfall, and post-burn grazing management. Selah–take stock of which of those are under your direct control–only grazing management. Forewarned is forearmed.
Texas residents, have the fires affected any of the land you hunt?