News of a study in a press release today from the U. of Wisconsin-Madison:
“We had this long-term demographic study, we knew all the owls in the 137 square mile study area,” says Peery. “The fire burned almost half the study area. On one side was the treatment, a large, high severity fire, and on the other side was the control, with little or no fire. Almost all the owl territories within the megafire went from occupied to unoccupied. We can now say that megafires have a significant impact on the spotted owl, and so we think that forest restoration through fuel reduction benefits both the forest ecosystem and the spotted owl.”
I hesitate to think that the researchers were surprised that the owls had left the burned area….
The study, “Megafires: an emerging threat to old-forest species,” is (behind a pay wall).
Exterminated? Well, maybe, but all they know is that the burned area is unoccupied — the owls likely flew off. Some chicks may have been killed — but I speculate.
Some folks will point out that the fire area studied, the King Fire in Calif., burned in 2014, so it’s too soon to say that those owls won’t come back at some point. They will come back, eventually. But that doesn’t mean that “mega fires” are desirable. The researchers got one thing right: “…forest restoration through fuel reduction benefits both the forest ecosystem and the spotted owl.” We have plenty of snag forest habitat.