What happens to wildlife after wildfires? Cal State Long Beach project aims to find out

A rabbit, photographed using a trail camera, hops over burned...

A red-tailed hawk and two turkey vultures circled overhead as Erin Weiner walked down a dusty trail inside protected habitat land near Orange County’s Limestone Canyon.

Weiner, 24, is an avid hiker. The Long Beach resident is also a scientist. And on this trip she had a mission.

When Weiner reached a steel post sticking out of the tinder-dry brush she unlocked a metal box mounted near the top, brushed away a few dozen pincher bugs that had made the box their home, and popped out a simple trail camera. Inside the motion-triggered camera was a memory card with thousands of images taken over the past month — a jackpot for a biologist whose passion is wildlife conservation.

As she pursues her masters degree in biology at Cal State Long Beach, Weiner is studying stretches of eastern Orange County and the Santa Cruz Mountains that have been ravaged by wildfires in recent years. Her goal is to answer a series of questions that previously haven’t received much attention from researchers:

How long do mammals — from squirrels to deer to mountain lions — stay away from an area after a wildfire rips through? Where do they go in the meantime? Which animals come back first and why? And is there anything conservationists can do to help get wildlife, and therefore the entire ecosystem, back to normal faster?

A rabbit, photographed using a trail camera, hops over burned ground following the Bond fire in December, 2020. Erin Weiner, a masters student at Cal State Long Beach, is using the cameras to study the effects of wildfires on midsized mammals and the rate that they return to an area. (Photo courtesy The Mammal Lab, CSULB)

The Bond fire, photographed using a trail camera, burns in December, 2020. Erin Weiner, a masters student at Cal State Long Beach, is using the cameras to study the effects of wildfires on midsized mammals and the rate that they return to an area. (Photo courtesy The Mammal Lab, CSULB)

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Erin Weiner checks a trail camera near a burned tree on part of the former Irvine Ranch near Silverado, CA on Tuesday, August 2, 2022. Weiner is studying the effects of wildfires on midsized mammals and the rate that they return to an area. (Photo by Paul Bersebach, Orange County Register/SCNG)

A bobcat was captured on a trail camera on part of the former Irvine Ranch near Silverado, CA in January 2022. Erin Weiner, a masters student at Cal State Long Beach, is using the cameras to study the effects of wildfires on midsized mammals and the rate that they return to an area. (Photo courtesy The Mammal Lab, CSULB)

Erin Weiner resets a trail camera located on part of the former Irvine Ranch near Silverado, CA on Tuesday, August 2, 2022. Weiner is studying the effects of wildfires on midsized mammals and the rate that they return to an area. (Photo by Paul Bersebach, Orange County Register/SCNG)

Erin Weiner is a masters student at …read more

Source:: Los Angeles Daily News

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