Hope for Wildlife fielded more than 100 calls on Monday, the second day as a wildfire continues to rage in Tantallon. But the founder of the rehabilitation centre in Seaforth said none of those calls are related to wildlife rescued from the fires, at least not yet. 

“Unfortunately, many of the wild animals will die of the fire, but it’s the going forward that’s going to be difficult for a lot of nature,” Hope Swinimer said in a phone interview with the Halifax Examiner Monday afternoon. “We are going to see an abundance of wild animals at our doorstep maybe moreso than we ever have in our past.” 

Swinimer said in a wildfire, many of the animals that perish are the slower moving wildlife such as porcupines and nestling birds.  

“Those that do survive, you will see them more and more out on the roads and that kind of thing. It’s not the case where an injured animal will come in after a fire,” she said. 

A small brown porcupine with thousands of quills standing on edge sits on a branch.
A young porcupine at Hope for Wildlife in Seaforth. Hope Swinimer said small, slower moving animals like this porcupine are at most risk during wildfires. Credit: Hope for Wildlife

Swinimer said the animals that do make it out of the fire may have smoke inhalation, oxygen deprivation, heat exhaustion, dehydration, and other serious issues. 

“People don’t often think about it but the biggest impact for the wildlife is after the fire has moved out of the area. They have to figure out a new place to live, a new food supply, shelter, fresh water. There’s lasting effects for up to a year or two or more after a fire goes through because the terrain will change,” Swinimer said.

“What was there, it might have been an older forest, and now it’s going to be replaced with smaller trees and bushes, which will house different animals, but not maybe not the type of animals that might normally have lived there. I have a saying that the animals that can adapt better to people and urban life are the ones that will do the best because they are adaptable and they can change with the things they will be facing.” 

Swinimer said on a normal day they get anywhere from 70 to 120 calls, but they can receive up to 200 calls on sunny days likely because people are outside and notice more animals that are injured. And as the weather warms up, more people are on the roads so that increases the number of animals drivers hit with their vehicles. Domestic pets are also more likely to be outside and will bring in wild animals that are on their owner’s property. 

“I’ve had a lot of kind, good Samaritans call in and offer their help,” Swinimer said. “It’s been great because we’ve had so many pickups for injured wild animals that total strangers have been able to help me out to pick up a box with an injured bird in it and that kind of thing. It’s amazing how many people are calling to check in and offer help.” 

Swinimer said with more wildlife trying to escape from burning forests, people should pay more attention for wildlife when driving, especially at dawn and dusk.

“There probably will be so many homeless animals right now that we are going to see them more. And sharing our space a bit more,” she said. “Just remember these wild animals are very scared and very tired right now. Try not to scare them, try to avoid them. Don’t feed them. Just give them their space to rest and recover from what they’ve been through.” 

Swinimer said there are ways for people to protect wildlife from such fires in the future.

“The best thing is prevention of fires and trying our very, very best not to take any chances at all through the summer until we can get some heavy rains,” she said. 

Groups using social media to connect owners with lost pets

As for domestic animals, there are a couple of Facebook pages set up to find pets losts in the areas where homeowners had to evacuate. HRM-Tantallon Wildfire Lost Pets on Facebook is sharing photos of pets that people have found on their properties, while homeowners who have evacuated can share photos of their missing pets. While some pets remain missing, others have been returned to their owners. According to the group, some rescue teams have been permitted into communities to find pets that are lost.

The Examiner contacted the administrator of that group to learn about the rescues. We will update this story when we hear back.

Another Facebook page, NS Wildfire Horse (only) Updates, has been set up to track horses that are loose, as well as offer support to horse owners who are looking for places to take their horses.

And as the Examiner reported this morning, The Disaster Animal Response Team of Nova Scotia has a shelter for pets set up at the Canada Games Centre in Clayton Park.

Click here to visit our Nova Scotia wildfires resource page.

Suzanne Rent is a writer, editor, and researcher. You can follow her on Twitter @Suzanne_Rent and on Mastodon

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