As of September 5, dozens of animals from the wild, including ducks, rabbits and turtles, as well as common livestock such as goats, sheep, cows, pigs, and even a family cat or two — have been housed at the Clackamas County Event Center fairgrounds as "refugees" of sorts from the more than 300,000 wild-land acres that continue to burn across Oregon.
In 2010, the Clackamas County Event Center became a designated safety zone where animals, both wild and domesticated, could be corralled and sent to Canby to be sheltered while 'riding the storm out,' as the popular 1970s and 80s rock'n'roll band REO Speedwagon used to sing.
Laurie Bothwell, executive director of the Clackamas County Event Center, said "all hands were on deck by 4:30 a.m." on Sept. 4 as event center workers waited for the arrival of the first animals to show up in Clackamas County.
"I haven't been back there in a while to do a complete headcount," Bothwell said. "But we have several live (cattle), two llamas, several (house) cats that people manage to corral into crates, and additionally a pot-bellied pig, which I never thought I would ever say this, but it is just about the cutest-thing I've ever seen."
Bothwell said the Event Center anticipates receiving about 2,000 rodents tomorrow — primarily rats, but some squirrels hopefully will come as well, she said. As of late afternoon on Wednesday, Sept. 6, no rodents had yet to arrive at the Clackamas County fairgrounds. Bothwell said she would contact the Herald when or if any rodents — no matter the amount — arrived in Canby.
Michaela Huserik, an administrative assistant for the Clackamas County Event Center, said some people managed to corral their barn cats into crates and get them to the fairgrounds.
A tour of the makeshift facility showed that the stockyard fencing used during the 2017 Clackamas County Fair and Rodeo came in handy as animals lounged about, laying on and feeding in hay, nursing their young and in some instances — all involving goats — seemed to ham it up for the camera.
Additionally, the Clackamas County Sheriff's Posse (CCSP), a 501 (c)(3) nonprofit founding in 1928 by county citizens, as an all-volunteer group, is working at the fairgrounds to take care of the refugee animals.
CCSP members are not officially law enforcement officers but each member is recognized as a special deputy, and all participate in events to represent the Clackamas County Sheriff's Office, such as appearing annually in the Portland Rose Festival grand Floral Parade, and other community events — for instance, helping out with the animals at the Clackamas County Event Center this week, said Bob Howard, CCSP secretary and membership coordinator.
Dan Sandberg, a member of the Clackamas County Fair and Event Center Board of Directors, said that due to the fires in The Columbia River Gorge area many people with livestock were required to evacuate their land and homes but didn't have friends or know someone with a farm where they could take their animals while the fire burned close by.
"Multnomah County contacted the county fairgrounds, and we told them we had room," Bothwell said. "We've got room for more but it would be nice if we didn't have to take anymore because of the emergency situation (that hopefully will end soon)."
"SHOWDEO" coming to Canby
On a side note, the CCSP is holding a "SHOWDEO," essentially a friendly-ish rodeo "except when they're riding against each other" where the 14 different Oregon sheriff's posse's — about 125-or-so people participate — from across the state compete in events each year, Howard said.
The 2017 event is taking place at the Clackamas County Event Center Fairgrounds the weekend of September 22 – 24 and is free to the public. For more information visit the CCSP web page at www.clackamas.us/sheriff/posse.html.