Colockum wildlife: how to help
To volunteer: Call Bill Stegemen at 663-7529, or Ron Poppe at 662-3957.
To donate: Deposit funds at Banner Bank in the “Colockum Wildfire Recovery Fund.”
MALAGA — Damage from the Colockum Tarps Fire nearly a month ago may push deer, elk, bighorn sheep and game birds out of their range this winter.
The Wenatchee Sportsmen’s Association hopes to ease their way home by replacing dozens of bird feeders and structures that hold water that burned up in the fire.
Most of the 42 food and watering facilities that the group installed in cooperation with the state Department of Fish and Wildlife were destroyed, said Sportsmen’s President Dave Gimlin.
“There is a lot that needs to be done, and a lot of it needs to be done before snow flies,” he said. “We’re trying to get any help we can — volunteers or money,” he said.
The Association estimates it will cost about $25,000 to $30,000 in materials to replace those manmade facilities. It will also take many, many hours to complete the work.
The structures include 16 water guzzlers, which are tanks with special lids that allow birds and small animals to access water year ‘round; 11 bird feeders, mostly for turkeys and other game birds; nine spring developments, where water is directed into stock tanks for all wildlife; and six catch basins that gather natural runoff for all wildlife.
Gimlin said the guzzlers and catch basins have to be repaired or replaced this fall so they are ready to collect next spring’s runoff, and the bird feeders must also be finished by fall to help birds survive this winter.
Officials with the state Department of Fish and Wildlife say it’s too soon to know just how much the 80,200-acre fire will impact big and small animals that usually live in the Colockum Wildlife Area.
“It was definitely a big fire, and it burned a lot of winter range for deer and elk,” said Ted Clausing, regional wildlife program manager for the state Department of Fish and Wildlife.
He said officials worry that many of the deer and elk that usually winter there may leave the area, and become problems in agricultural areas to the north or south. “Or even swim the river and get into the golf courses,” he said.
He said the agency will consider whether to issue more permits for elk this fall to reduce the population. “They have a lot less food, so the idea would be to reduce the population,” he said.
Wildlife Area Manager Pete Lopushinsky said his agency and the Bureau of Land Management are pulling together maps showing fire intensity. He said in areas where it didn’t burn too hot, fall rain could allow some of the winter range to green up and provide some winter forage.
But regardless of what they find, he said, the wildlife area is already supports too many elk for the habitat. Surveys show about 5,000 to 5,500 elk living in the Colockum Wildlife Area, which is more than the 4,500 to 4,700 that the area should support, he said.
Add to that the devastation from the fire, and deer and elk may find themselves even more stressed. “It’s not a good time to have limited forage on the winter range,” he said.
There are other recovery efforts underway.
Fish and Wildlife is considering a salvage logging sale this fall or winter to remove timber that burned, and also thin overstocked stands.
The North Fork Tarpiscan Road, a major access road, is blocked by a rockslide that needs to be removed.
Lopushinsky said in addition to the structures the Sportsmen’s Association is working to replace, the agency lost 5 to 10 miles of fences, and an outbuilding in the fire.
And, he said, many of the area’s Green Dot signs used to mark roads melted in the blaze.
“We’ll be looking for volunteers to replace those,” he said, adding, “We don’t even know how many. I hope it’s not hundreds.”