Colorado blizzards hit wildlife, sanctuaries, cattle, & pigs
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, March 2007:
DENVER–The Colorado Wildlife Commission on February 13,
2007 authorized spending up to $160,000 on emergency feed rations for
as many as 2,000 mule deer and pronghorn antelope who remained
stranded nearly two months after a trio of blizzards paralyzed parts
of the west from the Rocky Mountains to Kansas.
“An aerial survey found distressed animals in small clusters
of 50 to 100 in a belt stretching from Burlington south to Lamar and
west to Trinidad,” Associated Press reported.
“Initially we were using food to lure animals away from
highways, train tracks and haystacks,” Colorado Division of Wildlife
southeast regional manager Dan Prenzlow said. “Now we are feeding
some of those same animals,” just to help them survive.
Snowdrifts up to 10 feet deep caused deer, elk and pronghorn
to cluster on plowed roads and railways. Forty-one elk were hit by
trains between Trindad and Aguilar in only four days at one point,
CDoW spokesperson Michael Seraphin said. Altogether, the blizzards
were blamed for more than 200 elk/train collisions.
“When the snow gets that high,” district wildlife manager
Travis Black explained, “animals look for anywhere they can stand
where it’s blown clear and they aren’t buried up to their chest.
Once they get on a roadway or the train tracks, they are vulnerable
because the banks are so steep that when a car or a train approaches,
they have no place to flee.”
Initial reports indicated that the storms killed only about
3,500 cattle, but as roads and water sources remained under deep
snow weeks later, Colorado Cattlemen’s Association executive vice
president Terry Fankhauser estimated that the final toll would be
between 10,000 and 15,000, far fewer than the 30,000 who were killed
by an exceptionally bad blizzed in 1997, but still among the bigger
losses on record.
A hay shortage caused the cost of feeding animals to double and triple.
At least two animal sanctuaries were hard hit. Big Cats of
Serenity Springs director Nick Sculac told Andrea Brown of the
Colorado Springs Gazette that snow removal alone had cost the 17-acre
sanctuary nearly $15,000. Big Cats of Serenity Springs houses 147
lions, tigers, leopards and other big cats, and was already having
hard times since founder Karen Scular, 47, died from pneumonia on
August 12, 2006.
A fire subsequently destroyed bookkeeper Collette Colvin’s
home, including a computer that contained the master copy of the
sanctuary mailing lists and donation records.
Wolves Offered Life & Friendship sanctuary cofounder Frank
Wendland meanwhile appealed for volunteers with snowmobiles to haul
food and medicine to 13 wolves who were stranded on sanctuary land
six miles south of Nederland, three miles from the nearest open road.
The 30 wolves at the main WOLF site, 20 miles northwest of
Fort Collins, were unaffected.
Free-range pig farm debacle
Responding to a call from the Colorado Department of
Agriculture, the American SPCA “deployed personnel to assist in the
evacuation of Pioneer Pork, a pig farm in Lamar, Colorado,”
spokesperson Anita Edson announced on January 10. “The 5,000-acre
farm includes hundreds of free-range pigs,” Edson elaborated, “many
of whom are piglets in need of nursing because sows have perished.”
Pioneer Pork passed an audit by the American Humane Free
Farmed Certified labeling program in September 2005, and was to be
audited again in October 2007,” American Humane executive director
Marie Wheatley told ANIMAL PEOPLE.
“American Humane was the original, lone responder to the
dire situation at the Pioneer Pork facility,” Wheatley continued.
“We spent a tremendous amount of hours and money to assist Pioneer
for several days. When it became apparent to us that the situation
was much more dire than originally predicted, and with an additional
snowstorm moving in, we strongly suggested and in fact directed
Pioneer to request a larger, state-sponsored disaster response.
“In the interim,” Wheatley continued, “Pioneer Pork went
into receivership. Following the blizzard, our staff became aware
that some standards of our Free Farmed program were not being met,
probably due to financial difficulties. Thus, American Humane
immediately suspended Pioneer Pork’s certified status. Regardless of
that, we continued to help Pioneer Pork attempt to save as many
animals as possible.
“If and when Pioneer Pork recovers financially and
operationally,” Wheatley said, “we will reassess, reinspect, and,
if appropriate, reinstate their certification.”
The Humane Society of the U.S. contributed $55,000 to
emergency feeding programs, including $10,000 to the Colorado
Veterinary Medical Foundation’s Animal Emergency Relief Fund to
assist stranded livestock. The fund helped the National Guard and
Civil Air patrol to drop 80 tons of hay to starving animals in the
first week of January 2007 alone.