North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission

I see smoke! Are the game lands on fire?

Author: NCWRC blogger/Friday, February 10, 2017/Categories: Blog, Conservation, Game Lands, Wildlife Management

Most likely, yes. We’re now in the “prescribed burn” season—late winter and spring.  The Commission uses controlled, low-level flames to restore and maintain wildlife habitat on most of the 2 million acres of state game lands used by hunters, anglers and wildlife watchers.

In North Carolina, prescribed burning is commonly conducted between January and March, when most trees are less active metabolically. Repeated burns conducted during the spring growing season eventually kill hardwood sprouts, allowing a diversity of native grasses, herbs and wildflowers to develop. These herbaceous plants are typically more valuable than hardwood sprouts for food and cover for wildlife.

Without prescribed burns, wildlife in some habitats may experience low reproduction and eventual displacement. Some species, such as bald eagles, are attracted by the habitat conditions that are created and maintained by prescribed burning.

The Commission regularly gets calls from people who are concerned about animals not being able to escape the fire, particularly during turkey hunting season in the spring. Animals may be temporarily displaced following a prescribed burn, but most can avoid direct harm from fire. Deer, foxes and bobcats outrun the controlled burn; birds and bats fly; and mice, lizards, snakes and salamanders find cover underground as fire approaches.

Fire is a natural occurrence to which animals have adapted. The Commission takes many precautions to help protect the native wildlife by using burning techniques that ensure animals have time and room to escape. After an area is burned, new vegetation typically greens up within a few weeks, which means the animals won’t be far behind.

For more information on prescribed burns, see Prescribed Fire: What NC Citizens Need to Know. For a schedule of prescribed burns planned for 2017, visit www.ncwildlife.org/fire. For details on the Commission’s game lands program, including an interactive game land map, visit www.ncwildlife.org/gamelands.

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