Thank you to Julia Parker of SBWCN for filling us in on the nightmare that torched the Santa Barbara area and the mudslides that buried homes, people and wildlife.
We reached out to the Santa Barbara Wildlife Care Network and asked to know more about the state of the wildlife there. Julia Parker who returned our call was kind enough to write the following from the frontlines.
During this challenging time within our community, multiple species of wildlife have been directly impacted by the Thomas Fire and subsequent mudslides. SBWCN has received reports from the public about deer that are challenged as grazing areas are now barren. Predator species have also been significantly impacted, losing a large amount of lucrative hunting area as many species are forced to move into alternate territories due to the catastrophic events. The Santa Barbara Wildlife Care Network has received reports of dead bears found on local beaches as well as mountain lion sightings close to individuals’ homes. To date, the SBWCN has admitted a gull and raccoon for rehabilitation that were both found in the Montecito area post Thomas Fire and mudslide.
The raccoon in care has burn lesions on his paws and tail. He was discovered in Montecito by a fireman after the mudslide. With the vast amount of land now void of vegetation, chaparral, oaks and grasses, surviving wildlife must relocate in search of new habitat, food, and shelter while competing with established wildlife in these areas.
The native Western pond turtle (WPT) has been found on local beaches, after being carried away from their habitats during the mudslide. Five WPT are in care, one with burns on his leg and another healing from a broken leg.
Santa Barbara Wildlife Care Network is the only general wildlife rehabilitation center in Santa Barbara and Ventura Counties, the region affected by the disaster. We are entering our 30th year and have noticed that the need for our work to rescue wildlife increases every year.
We cannot yet comment on the repercussions to songbird and raptor populations, as surviving species will have to establish new territories on the heels of the breeding season that is quickly upon us. We suspect that this domino effect for wildlife in the loss of habitat, food supply, shelter, and territories will have a significant impact on our local ecosystem for years to come.
National Geographic has titled 2018 to be the “Year of the Bird”, in recognition of the centennial anniversary of the Migratory Bird Act. For the team at the Santa Barbara Wildlife Care Network, this description could not be more fitting. Now more than ever, our attempt to preserve wildlife species in Southern California will be invaluable while our community continues to repair their lives in the wake of this disaster.
Please visit the Santa Barbara Wildife Care Network at: https://www.facebook.com/SBWCN/ Not only will you see the extraordinary rescues done by the SBWCN, but you will also see videos of ANIMALS RESCUING OTHER ANIMALS!
On the SBWCN Facebook page you will see the innovative and life-saving work of Dr. Jamie Peyton of the UC Davis Veterinary College. She treated this poor bear and other wild burn victims the way human burn patients are treated, with fish skin mainly from tilapia. Dr. Peyton said that its use for bears was for the first time. She and her colleagues stitched tilapia fish skins on the animals’ feet to sooth the burns. She said the bears soon were up and walking around in their bandages and will be released as soon as they are ready.
Wildlife Watch is happy to report that synthetic skin is now being developed in the US and Australia for treatment of severe burns, but as of now it is not available for use.