2011-09-07 / Columnists

Pets, Pets, Pets

Many unsung heroes rose to the occasion in the wake of Hurricane Irene. Some, such as the STAR Foundation, help victims that (literally) fly under the radar screen, distressed feathered and furry waifs forced to withstand nature’s fury. These poor critters are unable to call LIPA, their Mayor or the White House to complain about flooding, fallen trees or lack of power. The STAR Foundation cares for injured, displaced and/or orphaned LI wildlife, and last week’s storm flooded the organization’s caseload, tapping deeply into their financial and volunteer reserves.

“STAR” stands for “Save the Animals Rescue”. Founded 17 years ago, STAR is a not-for-profit, all volunteer organization dedicated to the welfare of both domestic and wild animals, determined to mitigate the damage done to the wild populations through human progress. With several hundred members, but only 20 or so active, Energizer Bunny (or should I say, Energizer Hare) volunteers, STAR provides veterinary and rehabilitation care (or when necessary- humane euthanasia) for wounded wildlife, plus education programs and public advisory services. STAR depends on monetary donations, kind volunteers with all sorts of skills including carpentry, and donated supplies. STAR recently purchased two and a half adjoining acres to expand the Middle Island sanctuary and open a classroom that will offer workshops to the public. To learn how you can help STAR efforts, visit www.savetheanimalsrescue.org.

Injured Argyle Lake cormorant goes to the vet, thanks to STAR Foundation. Injured Argyle Lake cormorant goes to the vet, thanks to STAR Foundation. STAR strives to give each injured animal a safe haven during recovery, and to return as many as possible to their natural environment. This is a difficult and costly task on a sunny day. Think about how a hurricane impacts such a monumental mission. The gusts kept blowing in more victims. For example, a great horned owl from Port Jeff arrived with a dislocated shoulder.

STAR has a 24/7 hotline (631-736-8207). Downed trees mean squirrels are ejected from nests. On Sunday during the storm, about 100 calls came in about baby squirrels alone; 50-60 more calls on Monday, and then STAR lost power and phone service too (until Thursday) which meant no more callers could get through while generators were needed for lights, heating pads, and microwaves to warm formula at the STAR rescue facility.

Callers were advised that most of these tiny squirrels were not orphaned; Mom would collect them soon, but STAR still took in approximately 50 infant squirrels. Licensed wildlife rehabilitator Lori, the director of STAR, is bottle feeding about 30 now, every four hours. Since she is a pro, it takes her about an hour each time. That means six hours of squirrel feeding per day which she multi-tasks while answering hotline calls and attending to other fuzzy patients. Lori’s husband is a rehabilitator too. By the way, Fox Valley Squirrel Powder for formula costs $90 a bucket.

Lori “farmed” out some of the squealing squirrels. Bonnie (Babylon Shelter retired) has 17 with ten from STAR. Like a scene from Animal Planet she coaxed a mother squirrel she’s befriended in her yard to “adopt” triplets. Each time Mama accepted a baby, tucked under her gray armpit, Bonnie would leave her a peanut as child support.

Despite the storm and “personal” power failures, response from STAR is amazing. While walking our dogs at Argyle Lake Saturday, we spied a cormorant by the northwest island near the LIRR that appeared to be caught on a branch. He kept propelling himself but couldn’t get free. The island is about 20 feet from the land so a rescuer would need a raft or tube to untangle him. Supposedly the lake is about 3-4 feet deep there, plus anyone wearing waders would get stuck in the mud. Getting to him became an obstacle.

When I phoned STAR, the volunteer said she would see if any STAR team members in the area were available. Within minutes she called back to say a N. Babylon couple would try to get there later in the day. I checked on my way to Babylon Shelter and was surprised to see the bird standing on the island but his wing dangled like a bent wire hanger. No longer was the task cut him loose and go.

Later on STAR volunteers Cathy and her daughter Laura, dedicated bird caretakers, called to say there was a brownish water fowl with a badly hurt wing swimming in the smaller lake near the Argyle Park homes. Could we be talking about the same bird? Could he have gotten that far?

Since I was standing at the island wondering why the cormorant was now gone, we figured it was him. When they tried to grab him, he plopped back in the water. We met up. I had a borrowed fishing net, and Laura skillfully scooped him and placed him in a box. We didn’t dare remove the net outdoors and risk losing him. Our impatient patient clobbered my camera with his beak when I tried to snap his picture.

Cathy called STAR for veterinary authorization. Several compassionate hospitals and specialists work closely with wildlife under the rescue’s wing. Cathy drove to Selden Animal Emergency while Laura and I sat next to the boxed cormorant on the back seat. Upon arrival, the cormorant was whisked into the back, beak and wing taped, and a digital x-ray taken of his mangled wing.

He is on antibiotics and fish is on the menu. He is not the first crippled cormorant to stay at Selden. Vet techs Cherie and Samantha helped him pose for photos. His bone is exposed which makes this a tricky orthopedic fix. Amputation is not an option because he would never be able to fend for himself in the wild. Hence, his recovery is uncertain. But thanks to the STAR Foundation, this cormorant is getting the best of care and didn’t have to weather the storm aftermath alone. He would have been a “sitting duck” for predators.

Babylon Town Shelter Adoptables (631-643-9270) Lamar St. W. Babylon: Many tiny dogs, all male, came into the shelter post-Irene. They played together in the yard. The mini menagerie includes “Giovanni” #94362 a mature Italian Greyhound who loves to play fetch and “Remell” #94367 a 6-year-old sad-sack Cocker Spaniel. Lovable Remell livens up when he sees his old metal choker that jingles with tags and keys. He could use lots of TLC.

More tiny dogs: “Harvey” #94358 scruffy Terrier; “Lucky” #94364- black Poodle mix supposedly left in a crate on a lawn during the storm; “Reggie” #94365- young but bald Cairn mix ; “Bob” #94351- parti-color Poodle; “Roscoe”- Doxie.

Cats: “Dusty” in C-7 sweet white cat; “Meerah” in C-10- longhaired tuxedo from an eviction.

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