STRAWBERRY, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) - As these wildfires spread across our state, wild animals are losing their homes too. When these animals have nowhere to go or are forced to relocate, it can be dangerous for reasons you may not even think of. The good news is animals like elk and deer are used to fires in Arizona and know to move away before flames get too close. But the relocation process can be stressful on them, and in this extreme heat and drought, it's even more dire they get the help they need.
A video taken in Strawberry has captured the hearts of Arizonans - as fires burn these elk and deer aimlessly wander across the road, unsure of where to go. "If they look nervous in the video, they're going to be going into unfamiliar territory temporarily, so the fire will displace some of these animals temporarily," said Amy Burnett, a spokeswoman with the Arizona Game and Fish Department.
Burnett said on the plus side, these animals instinctively know when to leave. "These elk and deer that you see in the video, they can smell the smoke and they're going to get away in plenty of time. In fact, they'll probably get out of there faster than some of the residents," Burnett said. They'll be able to go back to eat the new, nutritious grass once it grows back after the fire.
But as they search for a new home while flames rage on, they face two other major dangers - and the viral video highlights one of them. "During wildfires, we tend to see more road accidents with animals," said Burnett. "Please, please slow down in these areas because you will have large animals crossing the road and they may not be looking where they're going because it's a road they're unfamiliar with."
The other critical factors are the heat and this drought. "Animals need water first and foremost," Burnett said. She said if Game and Fish didn't step in, they would likely be finding mass deaths of these animals. But to try and prevent that, their agency is filling up 3,000 catchments around the state full of water for these animals. It's costly, but needed task.
It's so dry this year, they're about to set a record with how much water they plan to get to our wildlife who need it most. "This year, we're on track for 3 million gallons. We're still behind from last year. We just didn't get those winter rains, so we're still making up for last year," Burnett said.
There's a way you can help with this too. You can text "SENDWATER" to 41444, which will take you to a link to donate.