When wildfires break out, wildlife that lives in affected areas are at serious risk and sometimes sustain serious injury. With the recent Blue Ridge and Silverado fires being a huge talking point, what happened to the wildlife injured during the fires?
When it comes to wildlife, the Wetlands and Wildlife Care Center in Huntington Beach is the main location in Orange County where wildlife was sent to during the fires. They are fully trained and are part of the wildlife disaster network with the State of California. It utilizes an incident command system and notification with the state veterinarian and local governments.
The center received six animals that were affected by the fires, which included a Townsend’s warbler, a western bluebird, a lesser goldfinch, a western gull, a mallard hen and a raccoon. The wildlife care center received half of the animals from Orange County Animal Care, and the rest came from the public in both Blue Ridge and Silverado.
Debbie McGuire, the executive director at the Wetlands and Wildlife Care Centre, provided some insight on what the process of receiving and rehabilitating these animals was like.
When the Wetlands and Wildlife received the birds, they had upper respiratory distress from inhaling smoke as well as contaminants from smoke and soot on their feathers. The mallard hen had a burn on her beak, swollen eyes as well as upper respiratory distress.
“The birds especially had the contaminants of the smoke and soot on their feathers, so we had to wipe and wash them off because if they were to preen that, they would be preening in bad stuff… carcinogens or what have you; so we’d wipe them off and rehydrate them,” said McGuire.
The raccoon, who was caught in a Havahart trap when someone found him, had first and second-degree burns on his front and back paw pads and aberrations on his nose from the Blueridge fire. The Wildlife Care Center nicknamed him Burnie 2020 due to the burns inflicted on the animal.
“Once they were able to get back on the property is when they found him in the Havahart trap, which could have been a deathtrap for him. So when we got him in, we had to clean him off, get all the soot, chemicals and smoke off of his fur, cause he would have groomed and possibly ingested that and gotten secondary problems in his digestive tract. Then he was put on antibiotics for his burns, and we had to keep the wounds clean and bandaged and apply special cream used for burn victims. He’s still growing some fur back, but he should be okay to be released,” said McGuire.
All of the animals rehabilitated by the Wetlands and Wildlife Care Center have been released except for Burnie, who should be brought back into the wild this week, and the fledgling goldfinch, who will be staying with the care center for a little while longer to make sure it knows how to hunt and feed itself before it gets released.
“That’s our goal is always once we rescue them. They’re going to go through rehabilitation, and once they’re cleared with our vet, then they get to be released…it was a good outcome for these guys…we were ready to take in more if we had to,” said McGuire.
Visit the Wetlands and Wild Life Care Center’s website at https://www.wwccoc.org/ for information on wildlife, donations, events, programs, resources and volunteer opportunities.