ELKO – The Snowstorm and the Roosters Comb fires could have an impact on this fall’s hunting season.
Mule deer, sage grouse, pronghorn antelope and bighorn sheep have all had their habitats impacted in some way by the two large fires northwest of Elko.
Nevada Department of Wildlife conservation educator Joe Doucette said the sage grouse could be in trouble, especially the younger ones.
“If they are young enough those young birds may not survive so it could have an impact in that area on some of the sage grouse hunting,” he said.
Sheep and deer are not likely to be impacted in high numbers but the antelope population could take a hit. More than 1,000 antelope may have been affected by both fires.
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Doucette said antelope visit the areas as part of their migratory pattern.
“It will definitely impact the pronghorn antelope next spring and they may even have an impact on the hunting as well,” he said. “There’s a big pronghorn winter range up there.”
Animals are not likely to make any drastic changes to their migratory patterns even in the event of a large fire, he said.
Mule deer also may be lost if the fire has destroyed the vegetation they feed on.
“They don’t know that if they go another 20 or 30 miles that it will be better. They don’t know where to go necessarily. This is a winter range that’s burned into their herd memory and that’s where they go,” he said. “They may wander around until they hit something green but they don’t know where to go if their place is burned up.”
It’s unclear what kind of hunting restrictions could result in the aftermath of the fires.
“We have to get up there and evaluate after the fire is over to see specifically what areas burned,” he said. “In years past we have done emergency doe hunts because of a fire around where the Rooster Combs fire is. That Rooster Comb fire is going to have the biggest impact on mule deer.”