CODY - Hunters using Yellowtail Wildlife Habitat Management Area northeast of Lovell will notice a change in landscape due to a wildfire that occurred in April. Effects of the fire will influence hunting opportunities this fall.
Cody Region Habitat and Access supervisor Steve Ronne said the 1500 acre wildfire burned approximately four miles of cottonwood riparian habitat and wetlands along the Shoshone River and dramatically changed the landscape on the north side of Yellowtail. “Much of the cover including cottonwoods and understory shrubs and vegetation that hunters are accustomed to has not regenerated,” Ronne said. “This lack of hiding cover in the burned areas will influence wildlife distribution and hunting opportunity this fall.”
Jerry Altermatt, habitat biologist with the Wyoming Game and Fish Department said that hunters should also expect to see a shift in deer distribution. “Although the fire did not impact the number of deer on Yellowtail, we do expect deer to shift distribution and use areas outside of the burn where cover is still available,” Altermattt said.
“Hunting opportunity for turkeys, pheasants, and waterfowl will also be affected,” Altermatt said. “These species did not have adequate nesting cover in burned areas this spring. As a result, nesting success and survival of chicks was probably poor which will mean fewer wild birds available to hunters this fall.” Pheasant stocking will occur this year but minimal cover in burned areas will decrease huntable acres for pheasant hunters.
“Our biggest challenge and concern is managing invasive weed species,” Altermatt said. “The burn gave Russian olive, salt cedar, white-top, Russian knapweed, and Canada thistle a competitive advantage over native vegetation. Controlling these noxious weeds will be costly but critical in order to maintain habitat values.”
“We are seeking funding from special interest and wildlife conservation groups for habitat restoration of the burned areas. Restoration would include replanting of native woody trees and shrubs, seeding of grasses and weed treatments,” Altermatt added.
The wildfire burned Game and Fish, Bureau of Land Management, National Park Service, and Bureau of Reclamation owned lands within the habitat management unit.
(Contact: Tara Teaschner (307) 527-7125)