WILMINGTON — The house owners of the Adirondack Wildlife Refuge, Wendy and Steve Hall, have been ordered to search out new properties for round a dozen wild animals and finish their schooling and rehabilitation efforts by Oct. 25.
The order, from the state Department of Environmental Conservation, comes after years of “noncompliance with prior state enforcement actions at the Adirondack Wildlife Refuge, as well as repeated and ongoing violations of state and federal laws, regulations, and license conditions,” in keeping with the DEC.
“Past violations included using animals taken from the wild for private exhibition purposes, thus decreasing their potential for future rehabilitation and release, endangering the public by allowing the repeated escape of dangerous animals from this facility, irresponsible handling leading to public injury, intentionally hiding illegally held animals from state and federal agencies, and falsifying evidence in attempts to deceive or mislead state and federal regulators investigating reports of violations at the refuge,” stated DEC Public Information Officer Lori Servino.
“As a result, Ms. Hall voluntarily surrendered her remaining licenses pursuant to a stipulation she executed with the DEC in July of 2021.”
Wendy’s state wildlife rehabilitation license was revoked in 2019. The DEC ordered her to launch wholesome native animals in her care to the wild, and to switch animals in need of care to a different licensed wildlife rehabilitator within the state. She was required to give up animals on the refuge which might be federally protected below the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. She was allowed to maintain some animals held on the refuge below her DEC exhibition license till Wendy voluntarily surrendered her remaining licenses in July.
Steve, Wendy’s husband and refuge co-owner, stated the DEC gave them 90 days to rehome all of their wild animals. At the top of these three months, any remaining wild animals can be euthanized, Steve stated. That date is developing on Oct. 25.
A stipulation settlement between the DEC and the refuge, nonetheless, says that the DEC will take any DEC-regulated wildlife left on the refuge after Oct. 25 and discover an acceptable facility for them.
Fate of the animals
Right now, Steve stated a lot of the animals have new properties lined up, and he and Wendy are within the technique of rehoming them. But he stated that transferring them will be difficult, since among the animals which have lived on the refuge for a whereas have gotten used to their surroundings and handlers.
Steve stated he instructed the DEC that the animals may die within the rehoming course of when he and Wendy have been requested to relocate their Birds of Prey. Steve stated half of these birds died as a consequence.
Mark Fraser, the co-founder of the Nature Walks Conservation Society based mostly in Albany, stated the society is doing all they will to carry out an emergency rescue of the animals nonetheless left on the refuge. The conservation society is a nonprofit that helps fund the refuge with donations.
Fraser stated he hopes that the society can discover a strategy to restaff the refuge with licensed and educated staff whereas the Halls take a again seat — however the society is missing in funds, and he fears the present and incoming employees on the refuge shall be robotically assigned a “scarlet letter” due to the refuge’s previous infractions.
Steve stated Wendy’s violations have been largely from defective paperwork and complicated rules, however among the violations have been as a consequence of retaining unlicensed animals and improper constructions.
In June, the refuge had its second bear escape in three years earlier than employees put in an electrical fence to maintain the bears safe. Even although the bears have been discovered and returned to the refuge, Fraser stated he acknowledges this violation was substantial, and that along with the violation, the Halls apparently fabricated a story about how the bear escaped — he stated refuge workers referred to as the DEC to report the true motive for the bear escape, an act he stated took bravery.
Servino stated the DEC’s legal guidelines, rules and license situations are “in place to protect public safety, native wildlife, and regulated animals possessed under licenses issued by DEC.” She stated the division labored with the refuge for years in an effort to deal with the violations.
Both Steve and Fraser stated that Wendy was requested to give up her licenses by the DEC with the understanding that she may make an enchantment. Steve and Fraser stated the DEC instructed Wendy they might prepare a listening to, which by no means got here to fruition.
Fraser stated he has respect for the DEC and its officers, however he thinks the punishment Wendy has obtained is simply too nice. He stated Wendy is scared of the DEC, which may have fueled her makes an attempt to lie concerning the bear escape. He stated at any time when he talks to Wendy concerning the DEC “she visibly shakes.”
Steve additionally stated that he and Wendy acknowledge their violations, however he thinks it’s the DEC’s paperwork that’s retaining the Halls from passing on the wildlife refuge to new house owners.
The Halls selected Kevin and Jackie Woodcock of SkyLyfeADK to take over the refuge in its present capability, however Steve stated the DEC is “dragging their feet” by not granting them the Collect and Possess license, which might permit the presently endangered wild animals to proceed dwelling on the refuge. Steve stated he feels just like the DEC has a “vendetta” towards him and his spouse.
In a Monday e mail, Servino stated the DEC had not obtained a Collect and Possess allow utility from the Woodcocks. In a Tuesday e mail, Servino adopted up and stated that the DEC is “now in receipt of the applications from Mr. Kevin Woodcock and they are currently under review.”
“We need a miracle”
Even if the refuge doesn’t get a Collect and Possess license, the house owners plan to maintain it open.
“We’re not going anywhere,” Steve stated.
Steve stated the refuge would proceed retaining animals that the DEC doesn’t have management over, primarily livestock. He stated they’re taken with persevering with their academic outreach with these animals, however that might nonetheless imply discovering new properties for round a dozen wild animals presently dwelling on the refuge.
Fraser and Steve stated that the lack of the wildlife on the refuge wouldn’t solely be arduous on the Halls, however they consider it is going to even be a disservice to the general public, each educationally and economically.
The refuge affords public schooling along with their rescue, rehab and launch efforts, in keeping with the refuge web site. Steve stated they get round 50,000 annual guests, and a number of faculties within the Adirondacks ship their college students there to see and study concerning the animals.
Fraser stated he’s obtained an “outpouring” of emails from involved residents within the Adirondacks. He stated the conservation society is keen to lease the refuge land, decreasing the Halls to landlords in order that Wendy, who has terminal most cancers, may stroll over her personal land in peace whereas new employees take over, however the DEC rejected the allow utility from the employees he would have used. Now, he stated he simply needs to assist in any means he can.
“Now that she has terminal cancer and her life’s work is in harm’s way — it’s heartbreaking to see that,” he stated.
Fraser stated the principle methods he’s making an attempt to assist are by fundraising efforts and connecting with authorities officers about taking up the refuge. He stated his first precedence in fundraising is making certain that the animals are transported safely to acceptable places earlier than Oct. 25, although he’s additionally involved about paying future employees. He’s submitted some paperwork to DEC Commissioner Basil Seggo’s workplace with a assertion of intent relating to the conservation’s plan to lease and run the refuge, and Fraser hopes they will work one thing out about staffing points with the federal government.
He stated that with solely a few weeks to go, “we need a miracle.”