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73,000-Acre Forest Fire Destroyed Wildlife Preserve With PM-Forest Fire Bjt

May 14, 1986

HAMPSTEAD, N.C. (AP) _ The 3-week-old fawn, a tiny survivor of the fire that destroyed most of a major wildlife protection area, nibbled at Sgt. J.M. Burns’ ear and bleated as he gently tried to keep it from bounding out of his car.

″A fireman found this one wandering around the woods,″ said Burns, an officer with the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission gauging the effects on wildlife of the nine-day blaze that has blackened 73,000 acres. ″Somehow he got separated from his mother.″

The fire, which broke out May 5, has burned all but about 4,000 acres of the 48,500-acre Holly Shelter Game Management Area, said H.A. Strickland, a wildlife enforcement officer with the commission.

″We’ve lost wildlife, but we haven’t determined how much,″ he said. A game management team from the commission’s Raleigh office planned to tour the area Thursday to assess the damage.

The shelter had been home to one of the largest concentrations of Virginia whitetail deer in the state, along with black bears, rabbits, quail, foxes, bobcats and many species of birds, Strickland said.

Wildlife officials feared many deer might have died because May is the birthing season, and many does may have been reluctant to leave their fawns to flee the fire. Other does probably were too frightened to wait, but most newborn fawns don’t have the stamina to run, Strickland said.

Other deer were able to escape by running to cleared areas that wildlife officers had cut for firebreaks and to provide food for the animals, he said.

″I saw about 10 deer on the road and they appeared to be in good health,″ said Strickland.

At least three other fawns have been picked up since the fire began, he said. Strickland was taking the fawn to a veterinarian in Jacksonville, while others were being taken to other vets or to a Wildlife Resources Commission treatment center.

Meanwhile, buzzards in search of other dead wildlife could be seen circling over the blackened, smoldering wasteland that had been the shelter.

The fire has also destroyed most of the vegetation the animals feed on, as well as many shrubs whose waxy leaves fed the flames.

″But in 10 days or two weeks, if we get a good rain, that vegetation will grow back and provide the food and the deer will be in good shape,″ Strickland said.

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