ELKO — With Nevada’s archery big game seasons already in play, the fires that are currently burning in northeastern Nevada may alter the plans for hunters with tags in Elko County. The Willow Fire, near Tuscarora, burned a very popular hunting area in the Tuscarora Mountains. More than 43,000 acres has burned in this fire and as of Aug. 13 the fire was 80 percent contained. This fire burned adjacent to several previous fires including the 2005 Esmerelda Fire, the 2006 Winters and Amazon Fires and the October 2011 Indian Fire.
“This was the only bastion of unburned habitat left in the Tuscarora Range,” said Ken Gray, Nevada Department of Wildlife (NDOW) Eastern Region Supervising Game Biologist. “It is the second most important habitat in Area 6 that could have burned.”
The Willow Fire is adjacent to three sage-grouse leks and is home to important brood rearing habitat as hundreds of sage-grouse hens head to the high intact sagebrush habitat in the area to raise their young. It is also important deer transition range as mule deer move from their summer ranges to their winter range fattening up as they go. Now they will have to travel miles of burned habitat with no food, arriving on mediocre winter ranges that have been ravaged by fires over the past couple of decades.
“This past winter, many of the deer never even left the Tuscarora Range with the mild winter they were able to take advantage of this great habitat,” Gray said. “Now they won’t have that option.”
The Bull Run Complex contains five fires that are actively burning in the Bull Run Mountains, the Mountain City area, and in the McDonald Creek/Bruneau River area. The five fires are the Lime Fire, the Homer Fire, the Brown Gulch Fire, the McCall Fire and the Mustang Fire. As of Aug. 13 this complex of fires had burned in excess of 54,000 acres and was about 55 percent contained.
This complex of fires contains excellent sage-grouse habitat, deer summer and fawning habitat, and is very popular with elk hunters. The Mustang Fire is burning in crucial deer transition and winter range containing mountain mahogany and bitterbrush stands where deer stage before heading onto the Diamond A Desert to winter.
“Don’t forget that the Diamond A Desert was also part of the 2007 Murphy Fire that scorched more than 500,000 acres along the Nevada-Idaho border, impacting that winter range as well,” Gray said.
Hunters are being asked to stay away from active fires while in the field and to yield to firefighting and support crews heading to and from fires. They are also being asked to stay on roads and two tracks and to stay off burned habitat to minimize further damage and erosion to the habitat.
Hunters heading into northeastern Nevada can go www.inciweb.org to find current fire locations, maps and information.