When conservation groups burn natural land, does it disturb wildlife species? Simply put, yes.
Then why do we do it, and how can we call it “ecological fire” if it may harm some species?
Historically, fire was a natural part of the ecology of the Midwest before the land was settled by European-Americans 200 or more years ago. As settlers moved into the area, they did their best to suppress wildfires. After all, fire is dangerous and destructive, especially to human settlements that might be in the path of a fast-moving inferno.
Did you hear the sound of a thumb raking over the teeth of a comb while on a recent hike? That's the Western Chorus Frog. The first frog to emerge when the ground thaws.
They are very loud near some wetlands in our area, particularly in the Alden region where small, fishless ponds (vernal pools) abound this time of the year. A diversity of tiny creatures, such as the fairy shrimp (photo to the right), are found in abundance, providing a valuable food source for the recently emerged amphibians, as well as the hatchling salamanders, frogs, toads and turtles.
In larger ponds - those with fish - these small creatures do not survive, as they become food for the fish. But, in the small temporary pools of spring, the young amphibians are able to mature, feed on mosquito larvae, and breed so there will be future generations!
If you live near one of these spring pools, be on the lookout for spotted salamanders! They have a tendency to end up in window wells - the three on the left were rescued from one during a spring hike to look at vernal pools and the critters found there!