MADISON COUNTY — The Goose Fire still burns on south of Ennis and several camping areas remain closed.
But fire crews and Montana FWP wardens both say they’ve noticed more wildlife getting pushed from the Hoodoo Pass by this fast-growing wildfire.
“Wildlife like that pair of sandhill cranes that are just behind me are a beautiful sight in Madison County, especially near Cliff Point campground and the other campgrounds that have been closed due to the Goose Fire.
That sight has been coupled by the stalk of black smoke just over the ridge—and the Goose Fire, itself, now cooking at more than 6,000 acres.
“Wildlife have evolved with fire,” says Morgan Jacobsen, Information and Education Manager for Montana FWP, Region 3.
I drove my car near the firefighters’ base command when I was greeted by a mule deer doe that walked out of the woods, nearly up to my car.
Just behind her, a buck—both pushed out of the forest and into an area with a few homes, both moving away from a growing fire.
“One of the negative impacts of wildland fires to wildlife is temporary displacement from habitat that they are used to,” Jacobsen says.
It’s a scene Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks officials like Jacobsen in the neighboring region watch closely statewide.
If there’s black smoke, there are animals running away from it.
“Fires are a natural process and they can help habitat in a lot of ways and they can change it for better or worse sometimes,” Jacobsen says.
As this lightning-caused fire cuts through a dry forest, Jacobsen says it is creating not only new space for plants to grow, but new space for more diverse wildlife to move back in, ‘mosaic,’ from the frogs to an eagle resting in the smoke.
But unfortunately, not everything can get away.
“Reptiles and small mammals could potentially be impacted more heavily by wildfire based on their mobility,” Jacobsen says.
Jacobsen adds this: if precipitation falls just right after a fire like this, it could be even more positive for wildlife, like more nutritional greens. Nature’s way of balance.
“We do see positive and negative impacts from wildfires on wildlife,” Jacobsen says.
Still, no structures are yet threatened by this fire and the crews that are here say they are getting a handle on it with more than 20 percent containment.