Two bighorn sheep killed in West Kelowna wildfire

Click to play video: 'Wildfire impacts on wildlife in the Okanagan'
Wildfire impacts on wildlife in the Okanagan
With hundreds of homes lost to wildfires this year in the Okanagan and Shuswap - so too were the homes of wildlife in the region. As Victoria Femia reports, the fires left much of the wildlife displaced, but in the long term, the fires are actually expected to be beneficial for them. – Sep 8, 2023

With almost 200,000  hectares of land burned in the Okanagan since April, wildlife is feeling the impact.

“With the Mcdougall Creek fire it certainly led to the temporary displacement of wildlife,” said BC conservation officer, Ken Owens.

However, according to BCCOS, if the animals can make it through a wildfire season, the long-term effects of it can be beneficial.

“Generally wildlife is really resilient when a wildfire comes and short-term they’re temporarily displaced, but long term these wildfires are very beneficial for them,” said Owens.

“They create great grass and shrubs for them to benefit in the long term so it’s going to be amazing for them moving forward.”

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A black bear cub was found injured from fires burning in the Shuswap and had to be euthanized. Its sibling, however, who was also injured is on the mend and is expected to recover.

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In West Kelowna, some wildlife was lost as a result of the McDougall Creek fire.

“We confirmed two California bighorn sheep rams that were burnt up in the fire but we are seeing lots of other animals that appear to be doing well,” said Owens.

With much of the backcountry still burning, it means more wildlife is moving closer to the city, prompting a warning from conservation to be mindful of attracting them.

“Especially on the bear front, they’re going to see an increase in bear sightings, and bears’ sense of smell is 2100 times better than ours. Just really look into your backyard and make sure there’s no garbage,” said Owens.

Fire officials on the front lines are also noticing an increase in wildlife since the fires began.

“From the moment the fire started we were seeing more wildlife in places we wouldn’t normally see it. Just like people, the animals have been displaced too, a lot of space behind the community has been burned,” said West Kelowna fire chief, Jason Brolund.

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