County shelter cares for alpacas, peahen, pigeons and more amid East Troublesome Fire |

County shelter cares for alpacas, peahen, pigeons and more amid East Troublesome Fire

Animal control officers had been caring for 28 alpacas for six days while their owners were evacuated.
Courtesy Mary Ann Kerstiens

Between wrangling turkeys and herding alpacas, Grand County’s Animal Control officers have had a week of new experiences as they’ve responded to countless calls to help animals impacted by the East Troublesome Fire.

At the height of the chaos, Cpl. Mary Ann Kerstiens said there were around 75 animals — everything from chickens to cats and snakes to gerbils — temporarily housed at the shelter before being reunited with their families or fosters.

“A lot of the animals that we rescued, that same day or the next day people had homes for them,” Kerstiens said. “Some of the animals that have come in where the owners can’t come get them, we’ve helped foster them out so … that way they can see their animals. A lot of friendships have been formed.”

Robbin and I have rescued poultry in several places. These gals are still doing their job during this stressful time. 3 eggs. I’m proud of you girls!!!

Posted by Grand County Pet Pals on Sunday, October 25, 2020

Prior to the East Troublesome Fire blowing up on Oct. 21, Kerstiens said the shelter put the 11 adoptable animals in their care in foster homes to prepare the shelter to house animals displaced by the fire.

Even so, when the shelter received mandatory evacuation orders on Thursday, they had six lost dogs that sheltered at the Fraser road and bridge facility until it was safe to return.

“Thankfully, we didn’t have the whole shelter-load,” Kerstiens said. 

Many of the calls Kerstiens and Deputy Robbin Stapleton, the county’s other animal control officer, responded to over the last week have been reuniting animals and their families or finding foster homes for animals whose families are evacuated.

However, the officers have also provided continuous care for animals left in evacuated areas, including several outdoor cats. Kerstiens and Stapleton check in and ensure there’s food and clean water for them.

They have a similar protocol for the 70 pigeons and one peahen they took under their wing until the owner can get home. 

When it came to caring for a herd of 28 alpacas, Kerstiens and Stapleton had it covered until they needed to be moved out of the county. Kerstiens put out a call for help to transfer the herd and seven volunteers helped wrangle the alpacas into a trailer.

“We had never dealt with alpacas,” Kerstiens said. “This community has been so strong in helping each other.”

With some evacuations lifted, the calls have slowed, Kerstiens said, but noted that they are still responding to anyone in need. 

On Wednesday, the shelter was nearly empty of animals and many won’t return, since Kerstiens said half of all the adoptable animals fostered out found permanent homes.

“So we are coming back with less animals than we left with,” she said. “It’s been heartfelt.”

Looking to the future, Kerstiens is also trying to prepare resources for long-term animal care for locals who have lost their homes.

Aside from the efforts of the animal control officers, the shelter’s nonprofit, Grand County Pet Pals, is raising money for locals impacted by the East Troublesome Fire.

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