Disney has planted the image of Bambi fearfully running from forest fire, and we often mourn a burned forest because we think a lot of wildlife was killed in the fire. However, most forest wildlife possess the skills and abilities to survive fires. Most birds simply fly away, as fires typically burn late in the summer, after birds have nested and reared their young. Smaller mammals hide in ground burrows, and most deer and elk run away from the smoke and flames taking cover in streams, and near water. After the smoke clears, and ground cover is killed by fire shrubs and trees sprout from their roots anew, the birds return and feast on bugs, the small mammals emerge and the elk and deer have plenty of grasses to enjoy.
Many plants and wildlife depend on fire to create habitat, eliminate competitors, and release trapped nutrients. Dead trees provide food for insects, which in turn are food sources and future homes for birds and small mammals. While people cannot tolerate fire near their homes and communities, for animals it is a positive force of renewal on the land. Wildlife adapted to fire are an indicator of our own resilience and teach us how we can co-exist with fire.