NM wildlife left homeless after fires, monsoon

Posted at: 09/03/2013 7:15 PM
Updated at: 09/04/2013 12:23 PM
By: Joseph Lynch, KOB Eyewitness News 4

Many New Mexicans have been relieved since the monsoons hit. The state hasn't seen the kind of intense wildfires like those burning in Idaho and California. But the fires earlier in the season and the extreme drought in the state have led to another problem, with no easy solution.

Displaced bear, elk and deer call the Wildlife Center in Espanola home these days. Katherine Eagleson runs the wildlife center. She says the mix of wildfires and the driest three years on record makes things really tough on New Mexico's wildlife.

"There's no adjacent lands that were not burned that are good habitats now that have plenty of food source for these animals," she said.

Larger animals are usually able to dodge the flames. But once their land is scarred, they're left homeless. And when the animals go searching for a new home, people always seem to be in the way, according to Eagleson.

"If you look at this corridor between Santa Fe and Espanola, what do you see? Concrete barricades both sides of the road all the way up and down. How's an animal supposed to get across there?" she said.

The mammals and reptiles aren't the only ones impacted. Fish and other species that swim in the mountain streams are affected by the post-fire flooding. Kirk Patten of Game and Fish said they try to save them, if they can get to them.  

"If there's any sensitive fish such as Gila trout or Rio Grande Cutthroat trout, you can go in and actually salvage those fish before the floods hit or before the ash flows hit," Patten said.

The fish are kept in hatcheries until the streams are healthy enough for their return.