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Evacuated animals pack shelters; rescues continue in Black Forest area

June 12, 2013 Updated: June 12, 2013 at 8:30 pm

Animal control officers and area veterinarians have set up temporary centers to treat pets and livestock trapped and injured in the Black Forest fire.

"We are getting a large number of calls, so we're having to categorize and prioritize our efforts," said Gretchen Pressley, communications specialist with the Humane Society of the Pikes Peak Region. "Officers are in the field trying to get as many animals as they can. We're helping everybody we can get to right now.

"I think we do have some cases of injured horses, but I don't have the specifics. We are getting any animals we know of out of there."

Evacuees forced to leave behind pets or livestock should call the humane society's dispatch center at 473-1741, ext.1. "That will get the message to our officers in the field and they will get them out as soon as possible," Pressley said.

It's different with wild animals who instinctively react in ways that increase their odds of survival, said Michael Seraphin, public information officer with Colorado Parks and Wildlife.

"The general perception is that a fire will go through and kill anything in its path, or that there will be mass migration of wildlife from the fire zone to everywhere else around it, but that's not true," said Seraphin. "Essentially, the way wildlife deals with fire is kind of a natural behavior they've evolved with."

Animals that fly will fly away from flames; those that run will run and those that burrow will burrow.

"Without a doubt, some wildlife will perish - the very young, the elderly, sick or diseased animals that aren't able to do one of those things," Seraphin said. "There will be some that succumb to smoke inhalation, just like people."

The Black Forest fire may be most devastating to the area's youngest wildlife, the vulnerable newborn population traditionally at its peak this time of year.

"This is a season where deer fawns are being born and they're generally from a couple weeks to a few days old and they're certainly not able to survive a large scale fire," Seraphin said. "Also at this time of year there are fledgling birds that are unable to fly yet."

A Gazette photo showed a firefighter carrying a newborn fawn out of the fire area. The fawn, who is being called "Bambi," was taken to Colorado Springs Therapeutic Riding Center in Palmer Park, where it had started eating and could stand up after a time.

Animals trapped inside an active burn zone aren't necessarily doomed, Seraphin said. Wildfires don't typically sweep over the land in an all-incinerating wave; they hop and jump, leaving islands of unburned vegetation - at least initially. "It (fire) creates a mosaic pattern of burning, but generally in the beginning phases of a fire like we're having now, there are islands that don't burn," he said.

Wildlife displaced by a fire won't stay so for long, provided their old grounds are still habitable. Case in point: A herd of bighorn sheep forced to split up during the Waldo Canyon fire.

"Some went north, some we aren't sure where they went, but when the fire was over they were back to their primary habitat," Seraphin said. "When it was all said and done, they had formed a herd back up within days of the fire."

Area centers set up for evacuated domestic animals have been busy.

Horses, including 31 from Desert Skye stables, were brought to Norris-Penrose Event Center, which by Wednesday morning was officially full with 100 animals. Besides horses, volunteers led by Julie Woods of the El Paso County Sheriff's Emergency Services, were helping tend to a menagerie which also included 28 goats, 22 chickens and a pheasant.

Early requests for hay were solved with generous donations brought in on flat-bed trailers, but monetary donations are needed for electricity and water as well as future hay needs. Monetary donations go to the nonprofit Pikes Peak or Bust Rodeo Foundation, in care of Rob Alexander, Stockmens Bank, 601 N. Nevada Ave., 80903.

The Humane Society reported early Wednesday afternoon it were housing 146 pets at two locations: 96 at the permanent facility at 610 Abbot Lane and 50 at the temporary shelter at Palmer Ridge High School, where small animals could stay with their owners. There were lots of dogs and cats but also chickens, ducks, geese, turtles and a snake.

Pressley said they had transferred almost all their dogs to other shelters to make room for displaced dogs from the fire. Monetary donations to the humane society's disaster fund can be made at Specific item or volunteer needs will be posted on the society's Facebook page.

All Breed Rescue & Training, which is sheltering dogs from the humane society, was housing more than 40 dogs and cats and reported a "massive outpouring" of support had helped take care of dog walking shifts, food, etc.

On Wednesday the El Paso County Fairgrounds in Calhan started accepting large animals.

Rocky Mountain Equine, 481-2749, was matching requests with resources for those needing to move large animals.

Other offers included: Colorado K-9 Acres, Falcon, 683-8640, dogs, has done German shepherd rescue, chickens, goats, can't take horses, offered respite for dogs and cats staying with owners in RVs following evacuation; Aavondale Pet Care Center, Peyton, 683-4617, almost at capacity, large and small animals including reptiles, birds, goats and horses.

These facilities were full: Rampart Kennels, 5977 Templeton Gap Road, 591-0066; Woodmen Kennels, 740 Dublin Road, 598-4154, room for small dogs but at capacity for cats.

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