PRDA horses are taking it easy while smoke from wildfires hangs in the air. Volunteers Angela Bowering and Kara Mah led Andrew and Katharina Lieblich, riding Gimli and Dodger respectively, in Campbell Valley Regional Park.

Lower Mainland animals feeling effects of smoky skies

Animal shelters are trying to keep their critters healthy through the smoggy days.

The smoky skies aren’t just affecting the human residents of Langley and the Lower Mainland – the air pollution is affecting animals as well.

At the Critter Care Wildlife Society shelter in South Langley, orphaned and abandoned wild animals are nursed back to health.

“We keep a very close eye on what’s here in care,” said founder and director Gail Martin.

Right now there are two black bear cubs and eight or nine fawns at Critter Care, along with the numerous raccoons, otters, skunks, and other small mammals the organization nurses back to health before releasing into the wild.

“We make sure that they have nice clean pools to play in all the time,” said Martin. Many of the animals are getting treats – fruit frozen in ice – to play with and help keep them cool and refreshed while the weather is hot, dry, and smoky.

The wildfire season hasn’t resulted in a large influx of new animals from the Interior, though B.C. Conservation Service officers do know that they can bring orphaned animals to Critter Care, Martin said.

“Still lots of babies coming in, but from down here, not up there,” Martin said.

Unfortunately, she said many animals will simply die in the wildfires of the Interior, overcome by smoke.

Over at the CARES cat shelter in the Milner neighbourhood, enclosed outdoor “catios” built a few years back are getting much less use, said Clive Ellis, the shelter’s fundraising chair.

“We’re not letting them out in the runs right now, except very sparingly,” Ellis said.

“We haven’t noticed any respiratory effects,” but the volunteers and staff at CARES are being cautious, he said.

From kittens to much larger domestic animals, the horses at Pacific Riding for Developing Abilities are also being treated carefully until the weather changes.

PRDA offers people with physical and cognitive disabilities the chance to get on a horse for equine therapy. It’s both physical exercise and the chance to bond with an animal.

The volunteers at PRDA are being very careful with those animals right now, said Margo Klassen, the PRDA instruction coordinator.

“It’s the smoke and the dryness,” Klassen said. “Some of the horses are coughing a little bit more than they used to, some running eyes as well.”

All rides are being taken at a very leisurely pace, Klassen said, though there have been no ride cancellations.

They’re being careful with their horses, who are often senior citizens themselves, as they’re chosen for being docile and friendly.

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