When the smoke settles in and the air quality drops the entire Animal Services team plays dual roles. They deal with not only the daily needs of the Animal Ambassadors and patients but they are also mitigating the harmful impact of smoke. In the wild animals follow their natural instincts that are meant to protect them during wildfires. For some animals, including birds, that means leaving when the smoke moves in.
Sensitive Respiratory Systems
All birds in our care, both residents and patients are put on a medication called SID itraconazole. They get this as long as smoke is bad, plus for one week after smoke clears. This medication is an anti fungal that helps their lungs. Birds can naturally have a fungus called aspergillosis in their bodies but when they become stressed by environmental factors, such as smoky conditions, the fungus can flare up and cause a problem. Birds also have unique respiratory systems that make them more susceptible to the detrimental impact of poor air quality. Our animal care team will watch patients and Animal Ambassadors for respiratory distress up to 3 weeks after smoke clears.
Impact on Animals
If you visit Wildlife Images on a day with poor air quality you might also notices some changes. All Ambassador birds are kept indoors when the index reaches 175 and if visible smoke is present at ground level we cover the open air mews to limit particulate matter.
While the smoke is bad for all living creatures, a few Animal Ambassadors are highly sensitive to air quality. Cheveyo the gray fox must come indoors once the air quality hits unhealthy. He has an underlying lung disease that can be exasperated by poor air quality. When smoke & heat linger the animals tend to become a bit more lethargic. During this time we closely monitor their behavior and provide them with activities and opportunities that will keep them cool and comfortable. You’ll also likely miss our Tortoise Walks an other reptile enrichment that happens outdoors. You can still visit many of our species in Robert’s Reptile Room.