Wildlife on the run as fire burns refuge

Published 5:13 am Wednesday, June 18, 2008

By Staff
Burrowing animals most vulnerable
Staff Writer
Wildlife around eastern North Carolina has been feeling the heat from the Evans Road fire since it started June 1.
The Evans Road fire has consumed over 25,000 acres of the Pocosin Lakes National Wildlife Refuge, killing some wild animals and displacing others.
The most vulnerable to the widespread ground fire are small animals that burrow into the ground for safety.
Even with the rash of fatalities among small animals in the refuge, she thinks that large animals, including endangered species, remain largely unharmed by the fire.
These animals include American alligators and red wolves.
Red wolves have previously been spotted in areas of the refuge reached by the fire, but not since the start of the spread.
Many large animals have been displaced and forced to find new temporary homes.
Residents living near the refuge have spotted an abundance of black bears since the start of the fire.
She believes that the influx of wildlife does not necessarily coincide with the fire.
Certain precautions should be taken when in the vicinity of a black bear or other large wild animals.
According to the Pocosin Lakes Web site, “If you encounter a bear, do not run. Slowly wave your arms, make lots of noise and slowly back away from the animal.”
The Web site also highly recommends that you “do not feed the wildlife. … (and) do not approach them, leave them alone.”
Strawser explained that the animals are “just looking for food and shelter.”
She has received witness accounts of “bears with their fur on fire and whole packs of deer falling in sink holes,” but believes them to be rumors.
Don Carpenter, a public information officer with the Incident Management Team, has heard the rumors, too.
Carpenter’s colleague, Jody Brady has seen deer run in to the fire area, but has not recovered any remains of wildlife, except for a box turtle. “There have been deer and various animals chased out by the fire. They become startled and run back in to the black,” he said.
In time, the fire will help the ecosystem and provide more abundant vegetation for wildlife.
Even though the fire will help enrich the habitat, Strawser and those with the refuge are concerned about the danger it poses to area residents
Once the fire burns out, vegetation will start to grow back within weeks.
The displaced wildlife will find it’s way during the fire, according to Strawser.