See Caroline Fraser’s blog, iWild, here: The world after burning: This is what New… – iWILD. and then follow the link to the “Yale 360” blog to read her article on the Megadrought in the SW United States.
Impacts to wildlife are beyond measuring at this time and scale, for there is little measured data before the fire. Now many of the smaller mammal species are just “gone”, and the habitat loss for forest species has been severely fragmented by this “un-natural” fire. In fact, we are witnessing, if we care to look, a flipping of the forest ecosystem to a grasslands ecosystem, with little hope of the recovery of the vast Ponderosa Pine forests that once characterized this region’s mountains.
We have few remaining large, native mammalian species left here in NM. The Bison, Grizzly Bears, and Timber Wolves have been expatriated from the wild, with Rocky Mt. and Desert Big Horn Sheep being repatriated with limited success, and Rocky Mt. Elk repatriated with unbalanced success, and lets mention the Pronghorn (Antelope) as well, although still present in the wild in NM, its numbers have been greatly reduced. That leaves the Mule Deer, some White-tailed Deer, Black Bears, and the Mountain Lion. The Mule Deer have suffered dramatic population losses over the past decade in NM, the cause? NM Game and Fish is “unsure of the cause”, and it “remains a mystery”. Black Bear populations are healthy in some parts of the state, but data is just now being accurately, or I should say, more accurately gathered, but much is still unknown about Black Bear ecology and their relationships with other species, like humans. Mountain Lion data is very scarce, and policy on hunting and depredation numbers continue to be driven by “sportsmen”, not science, of which there is precious little.
So that sums it up for the large animals in this state, which should be the easy ones to count, know about, and care for, but by the evidence we haven’t done a very good job of “managing the ecosystem for wildlife”.