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Short term help for wildlife during wildfires can cause long term problems

Posted at 8:55 PM, Aug 26, 2020

COLORADO — Tens of thousands of acres of wildlife habitat are going up in flames this year with all the massive wildfires in Colorado. There are social media posts going around saying to put out water to help struggling animals. The idea rooted in compassion is more complex than many consider.

The advice from wildlife officers is different. "The basic answer is leave wildlife alone,” said Colorado Parks and Wildlife, Area Wildlife Manger, Frank McGee, “If you see animals that you think are in distress and that are in need of help, leave them alone and give us a call and we can come and evaluate the animal."

A one-time watering may be fine, but animals coming back can quickly become a problem. Leaving food out for wild animals is never okay. "When we start bringing animals to our homes or you know our yards, making them more comfortable around us or making them dependent on us for food those kinds of things can lead to bad habits," said McGee. People and wild animals do not mix well. When there is conflict between wildlife and people the animals often end up hurt or dead.

The short-term impact of wildfire is animals forced to work harder at finding food and water, but they do it. "In the long term, most wildfires here in Colorado are going to be beneficial to wildlife,” said McGee, “wildfire is one of the ways that ecosystems kind of renew themselves."