Fire on Antelope Island Raises Wildlife Concerns


SYRACUSE, Utah (ABC4 News) – The Antelope Island Fire has now burned 14,560  acres of the 28,022 acre island.  With 80% containment crews are fighting on tough terrain to save the island and the food source for many of the wildlife.

“I’m at awe at just the extent of the damage,” said Wendy Wilson, Assistant Parks Manager for Utah State Parks.

Seeing the damage from the west side of the island what was once an area covered with green fields and grass has been widdled down to dark patches.

“Probably 90-95% of the west side is burned all the way down to the point,” said Wilson.

The West Antelope Fire began after a lightning strike struck the island close to midnight Thursday.  The fire burned a few hundred acres before it was discovered and reported to authorities on Friday evening.  By that point the fire had grown to just over 10,000 acres.  

Ground and air crews have been working on rough terrain to contain the fire.

“There’s just no roads down here,” said Wilson.  “Not really any trails, just really, really rugged terrain that you can’t get support to,” she said.

Sitting at just 80% containment, the more the green continues to burn the greater of a concern for the survival of the wildlife on the island.  

Officials say bison would be the easiest to feed, officials would need to bring hay to lay out for them to feed on.  They add some of the other animals may need some extra help.

“We’ll just have to really see what’s out there and work with the Division of Wildlife Resources to see what we need to get them through the winter,” added Wilson.

Officials say it will take years for the landscape on the island to return to its usual self.  They believe some of the grasses will return within a few months.

“When it’s so dry like it has been it will definitely take longer for re-seeding to come back but, we do have plans to look at options for re-seeding with native grasses and shrub, but it could take a few years for it to come back,” says Wilson.  

Contrary to other media reports, officials with the Utah Department of Natural Resources say there have been no reports of wildlife being injured or killed on the island.  They say the wildlife are use to such events.  They say the wildlife has migrated away from the fire and are faring very well right now.

Officials also don’t see the fire having a negative impact on visitors to the island; even as it’s burned close to half the island.

“People love Antelope Island enough that they’ll want to come out and see the damage.  They’ll still want to come out and see the wildlife,” said Wilson.

Though the landscape will be different they say the island provides the perfect escape from the hustle and bustle of the city.

“People come out her for mainly the wildlife and they want to see watchable wildlife and it’s roaming free out here,” said Wilson. 

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