Wildfire Created wildlife habitat

Forest fires are not all bad.

As a result of the 2003 Okanagan Mountain Park wildfire there is now a sizable herd of mountain goats in the area, reports Brian Harris, a wildlife biologist with the ministry of forests, lands and natural resource operations.

He has been flying over the park this fall, counting both a transplanted herd of California bighorn sheep and the relatively-new population of mountain goats.

Prior to the wildfire, he says they counted as many as 15 goats in the park, but after the fire there were 28 in 2006 and this fall there are 64.

“They’re slow to reproduce, not having their first kids until they’re five years of age, so this is a clear indication of the benefits of fire in the ecosystem,” commented Harris.

As well, they usually only have a single kid rather than twins, so the type of increase seen here is unusual, he notes.

For that reason, he has recommended that a limited open season for hunting goats in that area be added.

The fire also transformed the landscape in a way that made it more suitable for bighorns, so two transplants of animals from other parts of the interior were made in 2007 and in 2009.

Although 49 were moved to the park, when he flew the area recently, only 67 were counted, although he’d expected to find 90 or so.

He’s hoping it just means he missed a group, and says a fisherman actually reported seeing a herd of 15 to 20 grouped by the lake about the time they were doing the count, and most of the animals they counted were spread out in small groups of just two to four.

So, he’s wondering if they somehow missed that herd while they were scouring the hillsides.

They were scattered all over instead of gathering in larger herds in just a few places, he reported.

The animals do blend very well into the dead grass on the open hillsides, so they’re easy to miss, he notes.

And, there’s one area north of Wild Horse Canyon in the park where there are a lot of ledges, and they’ve been known to gather in there where they’re very difficult to spot from the air.

Harris said there are also good numbers of mule and white-tailed deer and moose in the area, but they’ve only begun their moose counts.

Early indications from a flight in the area of Management Unit 8-10, on the plateau above Wood Lake, are that there are a good number of bulls, despite the fact it’s one of the hardest-hunted areas in the region, noted Harris.

As well, he said it looks as if the calf populations are good too, but he said they’ve just begun the moose counts.


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