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On the Wild Side: Strange news from the World of Wildlife!

From the Ashes

Black Morel
L. West/Photo Researchers, Inc.
Wildfires rage in the western United States, grabbing the headlines with stories of destruction, evacuation, and firefighting efforts, as the flames inexorably creep toward population centers. But for some people, the news of summer wildfires isn't all bad. Some look at fires as economic opportunity, knowing that from the ashes will rise gold. Well, actually, black, gray, and yellow . . . morels, that is.

In the spring following a summer fire, with the proper proportions of warmth and rain, the little honeycomb-capped fungi known as morels will pop from the ash-enriched soil by the thousands -- by the millions in a good year. One fire-ravaged spot in Idaho's Payette National Forest is said to have generated $3 million worth of morels the following spring. Morel hunters, whom some might term an obsessive bunch, keep their favorite spots a closely guarded secret. But when a fire sweeps through and the morels follow, everybody converges on the burn site, pickers, buyers, and government regulators alike. The post-wildfire morel harvest can provide pickers in economically depressed areas with a much-needed windfall. Those who make a living at this trade are undoubtedly eyeing the fires sweeping through the forests of Colorado and Arizona, and planning for next spring.

Click here to read about how animals survive wildfires.