Western Wildfires: Few Horse Evacuations Thus Far

Although wildfires have recently burned thousands of acres in eight western states, officials in the affected regions report few fire-connected horse evacuations. They credit preparedness and a measure of good luck with preventing the need for equine emergency relocations.

"We just got lucky," said Louise Kursave of the Black Hills Horse Sanctuary in Hot Springs, S.D., where a lightening strike sparked a blaze that charred 11 square miles. "The wind took a turn and sent the fire about eight miles from us so our horses were safe."

In fact, according to Wendy Hanson, of the University of Nevada Extension Service, preparedness has become key to keeping horses out of the line of wildfire.

"People who live in areas where wildfires are common know what to expect and are generally prepared when the season comes," Hanson said. "But we still put a lot of time into educating people about what to do during wildfire season."

Long before the season starts, horse and other livestock owners in wildfire-prone regions get plenty of reminders to have trailers and relocation sites ready for potential evacuations.

"We particularly remind them to train their horses to be trailer-loaded," said Hanson. "It's impossible to force a horse into a trailer, especially in an emergency situation."

But even when the fire season has passed, horse owners in South Dakota, California, Utah, and Arizona and Nevada are left to cope with another drought-connected challenge.

"Good quality hay is getting scarce," said Hanson. "If people are lucky, they're on a list to buy hay from a local grower who has had at least one or two good cuts. If not people are buying hay that feed stores have imported from other parts of the county. And some are adding alfalfa pellets to their horses' diets to compensate."

About the Author

Pat Raia

Pat Raia is a veteran journalist who enjoys covering equine welfare, industry, and news. In her spare time, she enjoys riding her Tennessee Walking Horse, Sonny.

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