Report: Climate change complications for Colorado wildlife

This NWF map shows the increase in wildfire acreages for every 1.8 degree rise in temperatures. (Courtesy of NWF.)

This NWF map shows the increase in wildfire acreages for every 1.8 degree rise in temperatures. (Courtesy of NWF.)

Deborah Courson Smith

Public News Service

DENVER – Wild weather, droughts and wildfires in Colorado are chronicled in a new report from the National Wildlife Federation that takes a look at how climate change is impacting wild critters large and small.

The increase in the number of acres burning each summer is significant, said report author and federation senior scientist Amanda Staudt, as is the length of the wildfire season.

“Some firefighters are starting to say that the wildfire season never ends anymore,” she said. “Of course, last year was very devastating in Colorado and other places out West. I just was hearing today about how the snowpack is quite low again this year.”

Fires destroy habitats and food sources. While wildlife have abilities to adapt, Staudt said, they’re often hindered by fences, roads or other development. Plus, the report makes the case that the accelerated pace of climate change also cuts into the ability to adapt.

Grizzly bears are featured in the report. Staudt said bears are a species affected in a ripple-down way; as warmer temperatures allow pine beetles to proliferate and destroy whitebark pine, the trees are more susceptible to fire and the tree nuts are a major food source for grizzlies.

While the report contains bad news about several species, Staudt pointed to good news, too, because humans know how to lower the severity of the problem.

“We need to take steps to slow our emissions of carbon pollution,” she said, “and we need to take steps to help wildlife prepare for, and deal for, the types of changes that we’re not going to be able to avoid.”

Wildlife need to have access to corridors and pathways away from people so they can get to better habitats when theirs are no longer livable, she said.

The report shows how many species are headed north as temperatures get warmer, Titled “Wildlife in a Warming World,” it’s available online at



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