The past few weeks we’ve been bombarded with climate change stories in the news and on our social media feeds. These “weather events” like the heat dome, monster floods, and wildfires have wreaked havoc on those who live in the affected areas, and on the psyche of those who watch from afar. Climate change is here, and it’s raging across the globe at breakneck speed.
The apocalyptic images of a forest inferno, exhausted firefighters covered in ash, people staring at the burned and smoldering rubble of what used to be their homes, have become far too common. And of course, there’s the incalculable affect these events have on wildlife and domestic animals.
Washington State is having a record-breaking wildfire season; currently there are nine major fires burning across the eastern part of the state, prompting the local government to close all public lands. According to the Department of Natural Resources, the number of wildfire ignitions is already double that of the 10-year average thanks to historic drought and a heat wave.
Animal shelters and volunteers are caring for dogs and cats that have been lost or displaced. And then there are the horses. Some domestic, some wild, but many fallen victim to the wildfires. But there are some good news stories of human intervention to save and care for the horses that escaped death.
One of the major fires is the Chuweah Creek Fire, which began on July 12 and is continuing to burn ten days later across more than 36,000 acres. A couple of dozen mares and foals from the area found sanctuary at a local ranch in Rock Island, WA, a couple hours away.
One volunteer describes the majority of injuries as “edema on their lower bellies, a lot of burns to their face, their nose, some damage to their eyes, and all their coats are very rough and melted.” According to the news report, a veterinarian was going to be on the scene to evaluate and treat the horses.
The video contains graphic images, but it is heartening to see the volunteers care for the scared and injured horses. These are the lucky ones.
Near the wildfire epicenter in Nespelem, the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation declared a state of emergency after two fires merged and 15,000 acres were engulfed. We found another good-news story about how one indigenous man, Ricky Gabriel, was driving down the highway and came upon a small herd of horses trying to escape the fire. A herd of horses trotting down the highway isn’t a common sight and he stopped his truck to let them pass.
Then once they were safely ahead of him, Gabriel, a lifelong horseman, used his vehicle, a black Toyota pick-up he named “Black Horse,” to round up the horses and corral them on a nearby rodeo grounds where they’d be safe. For Gabriel, stepping in to help the horses was second nature. “We practice all winter catching wild horses, our tribe is famous for having the best horsemen in the world,” Gabriel told the reporter. “We help each other around here.”
In trying times such as these we all need to help each other and our animals.