I was very sad about the 2nd column I wrote for the LA Weekly about animals killed in the horrific Angeles Station Fire. (I mean, the topic: the column itself came out fine.)
The L.A. Times wrote that a huge number of big animals had died in the fire. I was going to call about this anyway, but the Weekly gave me the excuse I needed. I spoke with Kevin Cooper, a biologist with the US Forest Service, who was also mentioned in the Times article, briefly.
Since my first post in my Griffith Park blog, a Google keyword phrase that people have been using to find my Griffith Park-oriented blog is, “how many animals were killed in the fire?”
A USFS team spent two weeks in the Station Fire area examining its effects but wasn’t focused on evidence of animal deaths. However, when they stopped the vehicles, Cooper and others came upon three three bears, 12 deer, two coyotes, one bobcat and a fox. (The Times said they found mountain lions, but this is not correct.)
“Normally, we rarely see big mammals like this after a fire, because they’re able to outrun it. In my 20 years of experience, this is one of the worst,” says Cooper.
Mr. Cooper told me that of course there were many more animals killed than the few they spotted. The only ones he kept track of were those seen when they stopped the truck, or came across them in their survey. Here’s the part that sent chills up my spine:
He believes that because this fire often ran uphill in very steep terrain the animals just couldn’t outrun it. Fire moves uphill 16 times faster than it moves in flatter terrain, so even very fleet animals were overtaken. Also, the brush was incredibly thick there, and bigger animals got caught in it, or couldn’t run through it.
This is why I started this blog. This is why I continue it. Thanks to Mr. Cooper for the information, and to Jill Stewart and the LA Weekly team for allowing me to write about it. Go read the rest of the story there.
Photo thanks to ehoyer at flickr.