Heat, drought, wildfires concern biologists

Friday, September 1st 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

Biologists from the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation are becoming concerned about the recent drought and its effects on habitat and wildlife populations across the state.

The month of August has been one of the driest on record and temperatures have consistently broken the 100 degree mark. These conditions have caused wilting vegetation, declining insect populations and an increased fire risk.

Quail populations may be hardest hit by the drought. "The second hatch often makes the difference between a decent quail season and an excellent quail season," said Alan Peoples, wildlife chief for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation.

"Quail chicks depend on vegetative cover and insects for their survival. The second hatch usually takes place from early to mid September, and right now there may not be enough available for them to survive,"

Peoples said.

The risk of wildfires is also very high and can quickly alter large expanses of habitat. Vegetation is extremely dry and most of the state is now under a burn ban. Due to the burn ban, campfires are prohibited, but hunters going afield should also be extremely careful as a tossed cigarette can quickly lead to wildfires. People should also avoid driving vehicles off road. Even a small spark from a hot exhaust pipe could ignite drought-scorched grasses.

Fire isn't the only concern as weather conditions are also causing a decline in food available for deer and turkey. "This will cause a decrease in the number of acorns available for deer and turkey to feed on this fall,"

Peoples said. "Oaks across the state are becoming drought stressed causing the acorns to dry up and drop off before they mature.

"Overall, I think we're still in fairly good shape, but if conditions continue, hunters may have to be a little more cautious and may have to change their tactics," Peoples added. "But, if they are flexible, there should be no problem having success this fall."