“Fire! Fire! Ferocious fire!
You restless wall of flame.
Fire! Fire! Roaring higher!
Your fury to never tame.”
– Mark R. Slaughter
Fire is an omnipresent threat to both individuals and populations of fishers. Fires that burn very hot can devastate the over story trees and with them the places where fishers forage, rest, and den. So, we are always aware of the potential effect that a large fire might have on our relatively small population of reintroduced fishers.
In the last week a fire just to the east of our study site (the Chips fire) has been putting up a lot of smoke and growing ever larger. Presently, the fire doesn’t directly threaten any of the fishers we are tracking, but its western boundary is within 5 miles of at least 2 females. Since the fire began on July 29th it has grown to nearly 16,000 acres and is not predicted to be contained for at least another 2 weeks (see the link already provided).
If you examine the included map you can compare the current area of the fire to the area where the majority of our female fishers have been found (blue dots; these data are incomplete and unedited) and where they have denned (black crosses). Though I have not delineated individual females in this figure you can see that a fire of similar area positioned in the middle of the study site would encompass a large number of dens and female home ranges. Additionally, when you consider the fire shown here is relatively small (the largest wildfire can be over 100,000 acres) you can begin to appreciate how easily a single fire event could have dire ramifications for any fisher population in the west (in particular reintroductions).
Hopefully, the Chips fire will have little (preferably no) effect on our reintroduced fishers, but as with most things, we just don’t know what will happen. Fishers are obviously not the only species that are threatened by fires (marten are found in or near this fire), but they are our primary focus in this forum. Eventually, fire will likely have some impact on this incipient population. Those impacts will be related to the population size and spatial distribution of the animals. With luck, the population will grow and expand so that it can withstand perturbations such as wild fires.