Mountain animals displaced and harmed in local wildfires

PALM DESERT, Calif. - Together the Mountain and Silver fires burned nearly 50,000 acres of the San Jacinto mountains. Their destruction has taken a toll on animals big and small. Flames destroyed vegetation, displacing some wildlife from their habitat and killing others.

"It's always tough, you realize there are thousands of acres there," said Jim DeForge, executive director of the Bighorn Institute in Palm Desert. "There are animals in bureaus that probably died who couldn't relocate, so a lot of wildlife killed."

Peter Siminski, director of conservation and education at the Living Desert, warns more devastation is still to come. After wildfires burnout there is not enough vegetation to absorb water during rainstorms, which can create flooding and mudslides.

"Not only flooding, the movement of mud and ash can move into streams. Some wildlife in the streams are very vulnerable, rare frogs and amphibians," said Siminski.

The Bighorn Institute in Palm Desert said the herd of bighorn sheep in the San Jacinto Mountains was out of harm's way.

"The sheep rarely go beyond 4,000 feet. The Mountain Fire barely touched the outside of their range in the San Jacinto's. The Silver Fire was around the corner did not affect the sheep," said DeForge.

Although the flames burned the homes of many animals, experts said it does not mean all bad news for some species and in time the ecosystem will recover.

"For instance the deer that were displaced, in a year or so as green vegetation comes back, their numbers may be greater than they are currently or before the fire," said Siminski.

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