Wildfires could burn hunters this season | TheUnion.com

Wildfires could burn hunters this season

As wildlife adapts to a loss of habitat caused by blazes throughout California, hunters and game officials are watching public land closures and their impact on the upcoming deer hunting season.

Numerous federal lands used during deer hunting season, which begins Aug. 16, are closed in the aftermath of wildfires.

The lands could remain closed through fall for rehabilitation and to protect roads from erosion, said Craig Stowers, deer program coordinator for the California Department of Fish and Game.

“We’re watching. This is going to be a bad year for fire closures,” Stowers said.

The weekend deer season opens next week in a zone north of San Francisco to Ventura. Within the area, Big Sur in Monterey remains closed because of a large fire.

Other popular hunting zones in Yosemite and Trinity County remain closed, Stowers said.

If hunters do not purchase hunting tags because of poor hunting opportunities, it could financially dampen next year’s hunting season, Stowers said.

“If we have to go into refunds, it will impact work for the next hunting season. Anything that decreases the sale of deer tags could impact our budget,” Stowers said.

A drop in sales could lead to fewer wildlife surveys and less funding to manage a hunting season. Some areas could be shut down if officials don’t have the funding to keep track of the animals in the region.

“It’s hard to justify seasons if you don’t have surveys,” Stowers said.

Wildlife is resilient and has been adapting to natural disasters for thousands of years, said Steve Martarano, spokesman for Fish and Game.

Despite the high number of fires statewide this summer, Fish and Game has not received an unusual number of calls for displaced animals causing problems in urban neighborhoods, Martarano said.

Local hunters see the pros and cons of wildfire.

“There’s the obvious devastation of the forest and their habitat. However, they love to role in the ash ” all the animals do,” said Rod Akin, owner of The Hunters Blind in Grass Valley.

Heat from fire also exposes different minerals in the soil and promotes new growth of tender shoots and grasses. Akin thinks the fires that burned near Bowman Road will have a positive effect on this year’s season.

“The deer are going to seek these places out,” Akin said.

To contact Staff Writer Laura Brown, e-mail lbrown@theunion.com or call 477-4231.

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