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Posted: December 11, 2017

California wildfires: Why you shouldn’t intervene with wildlife

At Least Six Wildfires Burning Across Southern California

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California wildfires: Why you shouldn’t intervene with wildlife
Horses gallop from San Luis Rey Downs as the Lilac Fire sweeps through the horse-training facility, Thursday, Dec. 7, 2017 in San Diego. Although these horses are from a training facility, authorities say people should largely avoid intervening with animals during natural disasters like wildfires.

By Kelcie Willis, Cox Media Group National Content Desk

Days after a video of a man appearing to rescue a wild rabbit from California wildfire flames made headlines, numerous experts are saying his actions weren’t a good idea.

Video taken Dec. 7 in La Conchita, California, showed an unidentified man dressed in shorts and a hoodie corralling a wild rabbit  along Highway 1. 

Related: Man saves wild rabbit from California wildfires

California Fish and Wildlife spokesman Peter Tira told the San Francisco Chronicle that animals have natural ways of staying safe during wildfires. 

“If you encounter a wild animal in your neighborhood, leave it alone,” says Tira. “Fire or no fire, just let the animals be.” 

“Fire is something animals have to deal with constantly,” Tira added.

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Tira also debunked a viral message going across social media that urges people to leave out water for animals escaping the flames. It has various iterations but generally has this message.

“Northern Californians, please be aware that wild animals are fleeing the fires and they may show up in your yards. The Forestry Department is urging you to bring your domestic animals in at night and let the wild ones pass through. Please put out buckets of water for them – they are scared, exhausted, and have also lost their homes – they need to refuel.”

Related: California wildfires force thousands to evacuate

The Scaramento Bee reported that The U.S. Forest Service and California Department of Fish and Wildlife have both dismissed the message as untrue. Both organizations recommend people don’t intervene with wildlife.

John Griffin, director of urban wildlife for the Humane Society of the United States, told Snopes.com, an internet urban myth debunking website, that interfering with wildlife could create unforeseen issues.

“In this situation, it’s just better not to have an intervention, because (animals) are extremely resilient and they’re aware of other food or water sources,” Griffin said. “Trying to interfere with that -- you don’t know that interfering won’t cause an issue. If they’re truly injured and require assistance, that’s a different set of circumstances.”

Related: Photos: California wildfires burn thousands of acres, force evacuations

Tira said domestic animals are not at an increased risk of falling prey to wild ones and that there is a low chance of wild animals showing up in people’s yards.

The best thing people can do when they see wildlife they believe to be in need of human help is contact their local animal control.


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