Lambs to the Slaughter
The wildfires that are raging across the western U.S. this summer aren’t just threatening the trophy homes of billionaires; they are also posing a danger to wildlife. Take bighorn sheep, which were reintroduced to the shores of Washington state’s Lake Chelan after a century’s absence. The sheep were finally gaining a foothold in the area; about 17 lambs were born in the spring, bringing the population to an estimated 70. Now the 36,000-acre Deer Point fire has scorched the animal’s entire range, and less than half the animals have been accounted for. The same fire also threatens other species, including the struggling mule deer population as well as the western gray squirrel and the lynx, both of them endangered. The mule deer, which were already suffering from food shortages before the fire, are expected to battle starvation this winter; and the squirrel population, one of just three remaining in the state, was dealt a severe blow when its favored big-leaf maple habitat was destroyed by the blaze as well.