Beyond Your Backyard 🍃 "Water for Wildlife Part 3 - Wildfires"

  Juvenile Cape Eagle Owl rescued by firefighters in South Africa

Juvenile Cape Eagle Owl rescued by firefighters in South Africa

Kimberly J. Epp

With climate change causing the earth's global temperature to rise by almost 2 degrees, we can expect more and more unprecedented storms and fires to occur in coming years. The key word is "unprecedented". California's fires are now the largest and worst in state history. There have been over 559 fires in British Columbia this summer, and these fires have been the second worst in the province's history.

  Black Bear cub with badly burned paw pads, found in the California Carr Fire. The bear received fish skin grafts. He was lying in ashes when found. His paws were so badly burned, he couldn't walk. Thank goodness for good Samaritans.

Black Bear cub with badly burned paw pads, found in the California Carr Fire. The bear received fish skin grafts. He was lying in ashes when found. His paws were so badly burned, he couldn't walk. Thank goodness for good Samaritans.

These wildfires are certainly tough on humans. Many have lost homes, but the majority do get evacuated safely, although sadly 8 people lost their lives in the California Carr fire. But what about the wildlife, and how can you help them if you are in an area they may be fleeing to? How do the wildlife manage to survive? What do you do if you come across an injured animal?

  A man rescues a cottontail rabbit from the roadway, while fleeing the fires of Ventura, California in 2017.

A man rescues a cottontail rabbit from the roadway, while fleeing the fires of Ventura, California in 2017.

If you are in an area on the fringes of a fire, animals may be fleeing through your yard. They need to refuel and recover. Placing large basins of cool water for larger animals, along with smaller dishes for smaller animals will help. Keep pets out of the yard, so as not to further stress the wildlife. You can also help the vet clinics and wildlife centers overwhelmed with wildlife burn victims by donating to them.

  A coyote takes a dip within basins put out for the wildlife to refuel with

A coyote takes a dip within basins put out for the wildlife to refuel with

Reptiles cannot evacuate as easy as other animals, so if you come across a snake or turtle please give it a helping hand. If it's a venomous snake, call your local wildlife authority for assistance. All creatures deserve a chance! The same goes for amphibians. Find a nearby pond to release them into.

Fish skins have been used to treat people's burns in Brazil. The skins keep the bacteria out and stay on longer than synthetic bandages. This summer the third bear cub to ever receive such treatment did well. The skin healed quickly, and other than sore paws the bear was quite spunky. A mountain lion also received this treatment this past January in the California Thomas Fire. She has since made a full recovery.

  A Black Bear with badly burned paw, healing with the use of a fish skin graft

A Black Bear with badly burned paw, healing with the use of a fish skin graft

Generally speaking, an animal that has survived a fire and is walking on it's own should be left alone - but for an animal that is not walking normally, assistance should be called in. Just as in heatwaves, it's always the youngest animals that suffer the most trying to flee wildfires. Call your local wildlife department, as they will likely need to tranquilize the young animal.

  This Mountain Lion cub from the Thomas Fire in Southern California with badly burned paws also received fish skin graft treatment. She received this treatment in January, and had since made a full recovery.

This Mountain Lion cub from the Thomas Fire in Southern California with badly burned paws also received fish skin graft treatment. She received this treatment in January, and had since made a full recovery.

It is still hot and dry here within Saskatchewan, so be wary that a fire can be started very easily. Don't toss cigarettes butts out. Do not have a fire if there is a ban in your area. And keep on putting water for the wildlife to help them endure the warm temperatures.
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Epp is an Environmental Educator and writer - and can be reached at kepp@shaw.ca.

Coming up in my next column, "The Hierarchy of the Crow." Stay tuned!