Sonoma County sheep owner uses social media to save yaks, horses and even an emu from fires
The first Sunday night of the fire, as she hobbled along on crutches from surgery, midnight found Liz Bohan in the pitch dark in a meadow in Glen Ellen, with two friends, trying to round up her 24 pure white sheep. Three hours later as the wind rose, the menacing orange glow on the hilltops above had turned into blazing trees and thick smoke as they shoved the last Montadale sheep into the trailer and headed for temporary pasture in Santa Rosa.
The next morning, realizing she was not alone, and that her neighbors and friends throughout the area would need to communicate about how to rescue, transport and shelter their livestock, Bohan created the “Sonoma/Napa Fires Livestock Evac” (SNFLE) Facebook page, which received its first response 12 minutes after it was launched. The group rapidly grew to more than 800 members, who offered assistance or asked for help:
“I have these two horses I don't know who they are, but they are heading to Serrano Creek stables.”
“About 5 miles from the Coffey Park fires, we have acres of irrigated green pasture where animals from your herds and flocks are welcome.”
“I have a truck and trailer ready to roll to anywhere in Santa Rosa or surrounding areas to pick up any livestock.”
“If anyone in the fire areas need a place to hold their chickens, I have a coop that can comfortably hold about 12.”
“10 horse trailers standing by.”
“In Elk Grove, we have pasture and feed for up to 120 cattle, free of charge.”
“Driving up from the South Bay with 2000+ lbs of hay cubes and pellets, 27 bales of hay, 15 bags of shavings, buckets, halters, lead ropes, basic medical supplies, blankets, fly masks, grooming supplies.”
An international motorcycle racer, Shelina Moreda participated in a three-trailer emergency evacuation of yaks and steer from Sonoma Mountain Road, and posted, “We have experienced volunteers posted all over Sonoma, Napa, and Mendocino Counties, ready to get your animals out at any time of the night. This week we rescued yaks, exotic cats, some emus and more horses, 99 cows, goats, ponies, pigs and chickens than anyone can count. I could not be more proud of this group of superheroes that I've known for just over a week, who now feel like family.”
In another hair-raising Sunday night evacuation, Jenni Purcell and friends trailered several horses down from Norrbaum Road on the eastern outskirts of town, then walked back up to ride through the smoke and embers, and past a convoy of siren-screaming fire vehicles, down the road to safety. Purcell is the owner of Ravendaisy Farm in Sunland, in Southern California, where she teaches relationship-based horsemanship.
Animal evacuation shelters were listed on the SNFLE page, along with large animal haulers; locations accepting hay, shavings, food and equipment; and requests for and offers of medical supplies and equipment.
As smoke filled the air at the Sonoma County and Sonoma-Marin Fairgrounds, 4H youngsters and dozens of animal-savvy volunteers helped with feeding, watering and comforting the farm animals and hundreds of horses stabled there.
The Sonoma County Fairgrounds continues to shelter some of the 30-plus horses evacuated from Cloverleaf Ranch, an historic children's summer camp and boarding facility that was extensively damaged, in the most fire-ravaged northern section of Santa Rosa. Volunteer veterinarians treated several of the injured horses.
Sonoma Equine Rescue Rehab and Adoption (SERRA) helped temporarily evacuate 31 horses from Crane Canyon Equestrian Center, which expects their “horse homecoming” within a few days and will offer safe space for displaced animals at their boarding ranch in Bennett Valley.
Even the small farm in the town of Sonoma run by the Sonoma Valley High School FFA welcomed geese, goats and a few horses, and fed them with donated hay, grain and chicken feed.
Liz Bohan left this message on the SNFLE page as the fires raged: “I can't physically load animals due to surgery, but I can dispatch trailers for rescues and delivering feed, and checking shelters. I have been in your shoes, and if we keep connecting, no livestock or horses will be left without safe shelter. Firestorm, we will beat you because we are AG strong!”
After the wildfires are completely contained, the Sonoma/Napa Fires Livestock Evac Facebook page will continue to operate as a non-profit network for transporting the hundreds of rescued and displaced animals from their locations and shelters to their homes or other permanent locations. Bohan said, “We're getting calls from Napa, Solano, Lake and Mendocino counties, so we'll put together a comprehensive list of organizations, haulers, and all kinds of resources, and we'll be ready for whatever happens!”
And, after recovery from knee surgery, Bohan will return to her real job, as staff nurse at Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital.