Note to Reporters: All large animals found or evacuated from the High Park Fire should be taken to The Ranch at Loveland at Crossroads Boulevard and I-25.
Veterinarians and students from Colorado State University’s Veterinary Teaching Hospital are spending the week at The Ranch in Loveland caring for several hundred animals displaced by the High Park Fire.
The services provided are at no charge to the owners of the large animals who have been evacuated by the large wildfire west of Fort Collins, said Dr. Brian Miller, who is the “James Herriot” of the teaching hospital as director of Equine Field Services.
Miller; Dr. Brittney Bell; Kim Ellis, the head equine nurse at the hospital; and four senior veterinary students have spent 11-hour days checking on animals that come into The Ranch. They initiated the visits through Ellis’ friend Gina Gonzales, a firefighter with Loveland Fire and Rescue and co-president of the Larimer County Technical Emergency Animal Rescue, or TEAR, Team.
The Ranch is the designated evacuation area for large animals who have been displaced by the fire.
“Gina and I are good friends, and I’ve been going through her because of the incident command protocol. We both felt we needed to get veterinary support out there as the horses were coming in,” Ellis said.
So far, they’ve examined about 150 horses, 150 alpacas and llamas, donkeys, sheep, goats and calves.
“We’re doing physical exams, health checks and treating anything we’ve seen that needed attention,” Miller said. “At this point, just some minor smoke inhalation and dehydration from lack of water, some abrasions and a few cuts.”
Moving forward, he expects new animals that Larimer County Sheriff’s Posse bring to the shelter will likely need more attention.
“There’s a large number that did not have time to get out,” Miller said. “There’s still plenty of animals up there that have been without water for several days.”
People are sharing stories about animals coming directly to rescuers when they meet them at the fire site, Ellis said.
“Two companion donkeys came in, and after talking to a neighbor who knows them, he is convinced the one dominant donkey kept the group of two donkeys and four draft horses safe,” Ellis said. “One of the volunteer haulers who brought this group in told me this herd was standing in a lush green meadow, and when they arrived, the lead donkey with singed whiskers walked up to him and laid his head into his chest.
“The few owners that I did meet and see reunited with their animals were very grateful for the immediate care and assessment as they were coming off of the trailers by the team,” Ellis said. “What we do for the animals and see in their eyes – that’s enough for me.”
CSU Veterinary Teaching Hospital Equine Services accepts donations for the program at https://advancing.colostate.edu/cvmbs*53943.