As the smoke slowly starts to clear from the Mile Marker 14 Fire, wildlife experts are starting to get a scope of the damage done to crucial wildlife habitat. Vital winter ranges big game animals rely on have been affected. Experts say it could take years to fully rehabilitate, and they're going to need some help.
While the Mile Marker 14 fire is still an active fire, one thing is already clear. Idaho Fish and Game say it's burning right in the middle of the Boise River Wildlife Management Area.
"We don't know at this point how badly it has affected the wildlife management area, we do know it's pretty significant though," explained Mike Keckler of Idaho Fish and Game. Keckler of Idaho Fish and Game.
The Boise river wildlife management area is a popular place for hunting and a vital winter range for big game. The fire is burning in mature sage and bitterbrush. Food elk, deer, and antelope depend on during the winter months.
"When we lose this sort of habitat we know it's going to have pretty big effects," said Keckler. They're aren't many places where big game can winter in the treasure valley like they used to."
The Mile Marker 14 Fire is not the first fire of the season to affect the Boise River Wildlife Management Area. The recent Table Rock Fire also burned into its western border. It's a one-two punch wildlife experts say hurts the ecosystem.
"It was a double whammy," Keckler said.
Wildlife biologists are anxiously awaiting for the fire to reach 100% containment so they can get a firsthand look at the devastation. They will be formulating a plan to rehabilitate the area. They say volunteer help will be needed.
"Were going to have go up there and get seedlings in and hopefully get a good start on those plants so the rehab can begin as soon as possible," said Keckler.
The Idaho Fish and Game says they will be posting volunteer information on their website.