ASHE COUNTY — Throughout the year, the North Carolina Wildlife Commission will schedule numerous prescribed burns from the mountains to the coastline that will go a long way to helping maintain and preserve wildlife habitats.
For some of the game land in the state, a prescribed burn is the only method the wildlife commission can used to preserve these habitats. These fire-dependent habitats will receive restoration and maintenance burns, particularly in areas that need open groundcover for quail, deer and turkeys.
According to the N.C. Wildlife Commission, many of the declining wildlife species in the state are found only in these fire-dependent game lands.
The typical “burn season” for these prescribed burns will run from now through March, but can also take place during spring and summer months for better control.
“Burning encourages production of native grasses and herbaceous vegetation, which provides valuable food and cover for a wide variety of wildlife species,” said Isaac Harrold, the Commission’s lands program manager. “Animals like deer browse on groundcover. Quail and songbirds utilize seed produced by native plants. Quail and other species, such as turkeys and rabbits, use the groundcover for nesting.”
The most recent prescribed burns in Ashe County took place last spring at the New River State Park and last fall at Bluff Mountain Preserve.
While these burns are beneficial, they rely almost entirely on the weather and what Mother Nature has to offer. Wet and windy weather patterns moving through will force the postponement of the controlled burns.
In addition to helping protect and rebuild animal habitats, prescribed burns are an effective way to reduce the amount of thick tree growth that can be hazardous during wildfires, as well as controlling disease and insect infestation in vegetation.
Nathan Ham can be reached at 336-846-7164 or followed on Twitter @NathanHam87