Rifle woman rescues two dozen guinea pigs discovered near Harvey Gap State Park

Rifle resident Sarah Nelson feeds two rescued guinea pigs with milk Thursday.
Ray K. Erku / Post Independent

An unassuming dog walk turned into a critical animal rescue for one Rifle woman on Easter Sunday.

Around 12:45 p.m. April 17, local loan assistant Sarah Nelson took her dogs to play on public land near Harvey Gap State Park when she came across about 50 guinea pigs.

“I noticed my dog, Gracie, nipping something intensely, and that’s when I noticed that there were, unfortunately, dead guinea pigs just everywhere,” Nelson said on Thursday. “They were scattered all through under the brush, all in the field.

“It was clear that they had just been dumped there.”

After putting her dogs back in the vehicle out of precaution, Nelson investigated the area further. At that point, she came across two living Guinea pigs — a pregnant female and one baby.

This soon led to the discovery of about 24 living Guinea pigs, many of which sought refuge underneath nearby vegetation, Nelson said. She then spent the next couple of hours trying to collect the small rodents with a makeshift basket she made from a tarp she had in her vehicle.

“None of them bit me,” she said. “But they were certainly scared. They would scream and squeak every time I tried to grab them.”

Rifle resident Sarah Nelson holds two rescued Guinea pigs in her home Thursday.
Ray K. Erku / Post Independent

Nelson was, however, successful in collecting all 24 — including two pregnant females — of the surviving guinea pigs. She then brought them back to her Rifle home and immediately started to feed and care for them.

“I went to Walmart and bought the different bedding, and I bought water bottles and timothy hay and guinea pig pellets,” she said. “I was sure they were hungry and thirsty.”

Later Sunday night, Nelson posted videos on social media showing her finding and rescuing the guinea pigs. This prompted an outpouring of community support.

Nelson said people immediately inquired about adopting the animals, while others started making donations when Nelson didn’t even ask for money, she said.

“Honestly, it all kind of helped restore my faith in humanity a little bit,” Nelson said. “So many people stepped up and helped out.”

Brandy Clouse reached out to Nelson and adopted three guinea pigs. The local child protective services worker said one was pregnant, while the other two rescued by Nelson were the most injured.

Two of the three in Clouse’s care survived, she said. The remaining male guinea pig had major physical impairments and damage.

“It seems like the trauma from his injuries were from blunt force,” she said.

Milk drips down the whiskers of a guinea pig rescued by Rifle resident Sarah Nelson.
Ray K. Erku / Post Independent

Clouse said her 15-year-old son, Gavin, who showed immediate interest in rehabilitating the animals, wrapped the dead guinea pig in plastic and volunteered to bury it.

“It’s kind of a startling event for our community to see all these vulnerable animals living in an environment they can’t survive in,” she said.

Glenwood Springs youth Adelaide Jones, 13, also took in two babies and one of the pregnant mothers. Jones already had two guinea pigs and said on Thursday they truly are the perfect animal.

She also said guinea pigs are natural foragers, and the ones found Sounday could have possibly escaped from somewhere. Whichever the cause, Jones is elated by Nelson’s efforts to save the animals.

“I believe that any kindhearted person would probably do it,” she said. “It was probably no easy task.”

Nelson said she reached out to various agencies to get answers on what exactly happened, including the U.S. Bureau of Land Management and the Garfield County Sheriff’s Office, which no longer has an animal control program.

Adelaide Jones, 13, with two guinea pigs she adopted from Rifle resident Sarah Nelson, who rescued the animals after finding them stranded near Harvey Gap State Park on Sunday.
Submitted / Eileen Jones

If in fact someone did abandon the animals, Nelson simply wants to remind everyone “we have animal shelters for a reason.

“There’s so many better ways to handle it,” she said. “It was the cruelest way they got rid of them.”

This week, Nelson successfully found families to adopt all the guinea pigs she rescued Sunday — all except for two, which she kept for herself. She ended up naming one “Clover” and the other one “Jade.”

“Jade, because it symbolizes luck and happiness,” she said. “Clover, because a four-leaf clover represents faith, hope, love and luck.”

Reporter Ray K. Erku can be reached at 612-423-5273 or

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