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Burned wildlife healing at Tahoe care center | NorCal Strong

Porcupines are just some of the animals facing long term effects from the Caldor Fire.

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. — The people who make Northern California strong are those who inspire us and make our communities a great place to live. ABC10 wants to highlight their strength by recognizing what they do. This week we want to introduce you to the staff and volunteers at Lake Tahoe Wildlife Care.

Once evacuations were lifted from the Caldor Fire, reports of injured or week wildlife started coming into the wildlife care center. One of the more severe injuries involved three wild porcupines with burns on their paws and quills. To help heal the porcupines, veterinarian Kevin Willitts sewed fish skin onto their burned paws. It’s a relatively new burn treatment developed by UC Davis animal care researchers. 

“It works really well. It provides pain relief. It provides cushion and you don’t have to change bandages as much,” Willitts said.

The Lake Tahoe Wildlife Care Center has been helping injured wildlife since 1978, but about 10 years ago, they started taking in more animals experiencing long term effects from wildfires. Animal care director Denise Upton says not all animals are suffering from burns. 

“Loss of habitat. For example, raptors, raptors are in migration, and they fly through these burned areas and there is nothing to eat,” Upton said.

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Burned animals only make up a small portion of the animals impacted by wildfire. Many animals are weak from a lack of food. 

It’s often easy to nurse the week animals back to health, but the bigger problem is finding a place to release them. 

“Some of these places we normally release is burned habitat, so we’ve had to search harder for places to let these guys out,” Upton said.

Smoke is another harm to the animals. Veterinarians say the poor air quality caused heart problems with one of their eagles. 

As for the porcupines, their burns are healing well, but their burned quills have not grown back yet. Staff might not be able to release them until after winter. 

But there is good news. The staff and volunteers are patient and motivated to get them back into the wild. 

“It really makes you feel good when you can send one back into the wild,” Willitts said.

The staff and volunteers at Lake Tahoe Wildlife Care are NorCal strong. If you want to nominate a strong Northern Californian send a text to (916) 321-3310 and put NorCal Strong in the text. Feel free to send pictures and/or web links in the submission. 

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