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Is helping wildlife cope with the summer weather actually helpful?

Video Credit: Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife

With Oregon’s fire season now in full swing, the state’s wilder residents are also feeling the heat. But while people may want to help, an official says intervening is not always possible or the best thing to do.

Much of Oregon has been in a drought for the last two years. This means rivers are lower, which migrating fish can get trapped in while heading upstream. Plants also grow less so larger animals like deer can’t gain the winter weight they need. And less water means less habitat for migratory birds.

Oregon Fish and Wildlife Spokesperson Michelle Dennehy says people can help minimize the impact on wildlife.

“A key thing is just to try not to disturb them. Keep your dog, your bike, your ATV on the trail,” she said. “Put out your campfires completely because you don’t want to inadvertently start a new fire.”

Dennehy also says if water sources are limited, don’t camp right next to them because animals will not access this vital resource if you’re there.

During a wildfire, sometimes animals will get separated from their young. This doesn’t automatically mean they’re orphaned.

“If it’s truly orphaned, because you see its parent dead nearby,” Dennehy said. “Or if a wild animal is injured or burned, that’s when you want to call ODFW or call a wildlife rehabilitator.”

But, the advice, ‘just don’t pick up wildlife’ still holds.

If a person does intervene, the chances of the animal surviving in the wild are greatly reduced. And spaces in rehabilitation centers are limited. So, Dennehy’s advice is “Leave wildlife wild and let them be.”

It’s also not the best idea to make the extra effort to give furry friends in your neighborhood a helping hand.

Dennehy says bear problems have increased this year due to a poor berry crop in parts of the state.

“They’re getting into trash cans. And getting into barbecues. Or they’re under trees picking up fallen fruit,” she said. “So you really don’t want to make it easy for them to get into trouble, even at a time like this.”

While putting out some food and water seems like a neighborly thing to do, be wary.

“They’re going to keep hanging around and could become a problem really fast. So just advise that you’re very wary, even with water, of leaving it away from your house,” Dennehy said. “And being careful to not attract too much wildlife.”

If a wild animal like a deer uses your resources, it’s important not to draw them in so they will continue on to a more suitable habitat.

Copyright @2022, KLCC.

Aubrey Bulkeley co-created FLUX podcast, a three-part series to accompany award-winning UO School of Journalism and Communication publication, FLUX Magazine. Bulkeley finished her Master's degree in Journalism at the University of Oregon in 2019.
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