Drought, fire could rattle wildlife

By Alex MacLean, The Union Democrat

State Fish and Wildlife officials are anticipating a possible increase in animal sightings this spring around drought-stricken foothill communities, near the massive 402-square-mile area burned by last year's Rim Fire.

Scientists say animal behavior has remained normal thus far, despite the historic dry conditions and Rim Fire's destruction of more than 257,000 acres of habitat. Fish and Wildlife biologists are expecting that to change, however, especially if the area doesn't receive more rain this winter.

"We're concerned about quite a few things if the drought persists," said Fish and Wildlife Supervising Wildlife Biologist Jason Holley. "We'll know a lot more in two to three months."

Black bears, mountain lions and deer sightings could become more prevalent at lower elevations this year, he said, due to conditions forcing animals to look farther for food, water and shelter.

Holley added that the department is encouraging residents of communities in the Sierra foothills to be more vigilant about taking measures to avoid attracting wildlife to their property.

"Places like Sonora and Twain Harte on the forest's periphery have an increased chance of seeing bears as they look for food," he said. "And if bears find food at someone's house, they'll return there."

For the full story see today's Union Democrat.

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