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Thursday, February 21 , 2019, 1:08 am | Fair 47º


Captain’s Log: Animals Also Burned Out by Fire’s Toll

Back country devastation extends to animal kingdom, too.

My well-worn hat is doffed to our firefighters and associated staff and volunteers who did a wonderful job this year of keeping giant forest fires from consuming human habitations throughout Santa Barbara and neighboring Ventura counties. Our structure losses were minimal when the geographic immensity of the fires is considered. Our back country animal friends, however, didn’t fare so well.

Capt. David Bacon (Ramona Lisa McFadyen photo)
While we humans are not dealing, locally (as opposed to the scene in Orange, San Bernardino and San Diego counties), with massive refugee centers for people who lost their homes, we will surely be dealing with large numbers of furry refugees looking for temporary food and shelter. Like human refugees, they are stressed out, fearful and needy. Over the coming months, look for these animals to move into your backyard, forage in your trash cans and maybe eat your pets.

Caring pet owners and parents of small children must take extra precautions. Stay close to small children. Keep your pets indoors — especially at night. A pack of coyotes can forage quickly, silently and with deadly efficiency through a suburban neighborhood. Bears and large wild cats, such as cougar and bobcats, will hunt throughout the fringe neighborhoods, trying to stay as near to open land as possible, but forced by necessity to take chances. Small carnivores move into human habitation to forage on rodents and insects. Plant-eating animals will infiltrate our neighborhoods to munch gardens and shrubbery.

I feel sad for these frazzled furry friends. The natural order of the food chain is tough enough in the best of times. But this year a quarter-million acres of back country land burned. That area was home to millions of critters. Some lived and some died.

The survivors became refugees striving to survive by roaming to find food and suitable habitat to call home. When herbivorous animals have to move themselves and their young into new territories untouched by the massive fires — territories already overfilled with earlier refugees — two things are bound to happen: 1) predation by carnivores that are suffering a similar fate, and 2) starvation as the natural feed is overgrazed. This sad tale applies similarly to carnivores. These factors force animals into our neighborhoods.

Be watchful and call the animal-control professionals when you spot dangerous animals in your yard or neighborhood. For smaller animals, call the Santa Barbara County Animal Services  (805.681.5285) or the Santa Barbara Wildlife Care Network  (805.966.9005). For large dangerous animals such as cougar or bear, call the California Department of Fish & Game  (805.569.6814).

The back country will soon sprout new succulent growth and populations of critters will thrive once again in their natural habitat and re-establish a balance in the food chain. Meanwhile, be both watchful and understanding of the displaced animals that must come dangerously close to humans in order to survive a tough season.

Capt. David Bacon operates WaveWalker Charters  and is president of SOFTIN Inc., a new nonprofit group providing seafaring opportunities for those in need.


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