LAS VEGAS, N.M. (KRQE) – More is being learned about the lasting impact the Hermits Peak-Calf Canyon Fire will have on the forest and wildlife in the area. It is the second-largest fire in the state’s history and has no end in sight. Experts say that the Santa Fe National Forest will not be the same.
As the communities of San Miguel and Mora Counties are feeling the devastation, it also brings up what’s going to happen to the forest and other animals the community has lived alongside for years.
The flames’ 170,000-acre devastation has brought intense heat to the landscape, destroying brush and grass as well as many of the trees that occupy the area. In the past, these large trees like ponderosa pine and conifer trees were well adapted to fires, but not of this magnitude.
Experts believe that when the ash settles and nature begins to heal, these trees that once covered the area may not return.
“Then it rains and you lose all that soil that took 1,000s of years to develop. And all of a sudden, it’s gone, those areas will take longer to recover. And again, we don’t know if these are going to come back as forests, or if they’re just going to maybe shift to something else like a grass shrub out there,” said Dr. James Biggs, an Assistant Professor of Forestry and Wildfire Ecology at New Mexico Highlands University.
As for the wildlife, larger game like deer and elk will not suffer as many losses because they can outrun the fire. Smaller animals, however, will not be so lucky and some areas could see a 100% mortality rate.
However, there is some good news, the fire will most likely provide a more nutritional soil for new grasses and brush to grow, bringing even more animals to the area when it’s safe.