We all recognize Smoky the Bear and his message: Only You Can Prevent Forest Fires. Smoky’s message is very important – we don’t want to start fires in the forests.
But that doesn’t mean that all fires are bad. Many times fires are started by lightning or the Forest Service might even start fires. Those fires serve a very important purpose. Forest fire benefits extend to many plants and animals.
Bears love huckleberries, and one of the best places for huckleberries to grow is in areas burned by forest fires. Huckleberries like lots of sunshine, so they won’t grow where there are lots of trees. When a fire comes through, it will burn off the huckleberry bush but, if the fire isn’t too hot, the bush will regrow from its roots. All the ashes around serve as fertilizer and make the new bushes grow even better than before.
If you are looking for bears – go to areas that burned down a few years ago. That’s where the bears go!
Fires open up forests so that sunshine can get through, which encourages plants to grow. The ash from the burned trees and bushes serves as fertilizer to make plants grow better. Certain shrubs and grasses start growing very quickly after a fire – and that’s where the elk go. Elk rely on those shrubs and grasses in the winter, so the fire actually help the elk.
Antelope also benefit from wildfires. Antelope live on prairies – open grasslands with few shrubs. When a fire comes through, it burns out shrubs and young trees that had grown in the grasslands. The native bunchgrasses and wildflowers grow fast after a fire, which gives the antelope plenty of food to eat.
More than forty kinds of insects make a beeline to forest fires. They can burrow into the fire-softened wood easily. Birds come to the burned areas seeking the insects.
Many animals depend on fires in one way or another. They have figured out that forest fires mean food! But that’s all after the fire. What do animals do during the fire itself? Most animals have a very keen sense of smell and simply walk away from fires before they even get near. Although some animals do get caught in fires, most do not.
In short – fires are good for animals in the long run.