Wildlife Rescue Rehabilitation Center Gets Calls 24/7

Wildlife Rescue Rehabilitation
Center Gets Calls 24/7

By Carrie Thompson
Master Falconer Charley Koop with a recent rescue

Master Falconer Charley Koop and his wife Doris, a retired nurse specializing with the handicapped, did what many dream of doing in their retirement years: merging their two passions and continuing a life of great service. In 2005 together they established a Wildlife Rehabilitation Center, Little Eagle Farm, in Pittsfield, NY.

It began with a visit to his local vet Dr. Lisa Johnson’s office. While there, Charley heard the screams from a kestrel, recognizing it as such immediately. He asked Dr. Johnson if it was indeed a kestrel? She said “Yes! how do you know that?” “I used to raise them.” Leading to the obvious next question ─ “want to raise another?” He did, going on to get state licensing and meet the facility regulation requirements.

The rest as they say is wildlife aid and rescue history.

“We are there to help in any way we can,” says Charley when asked how he and Doris approach the myriad of calls and situations they find themselves in. “We get calls 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. If we can handle the situation we do or point people in the right direction to get help.” Over the last 17 years, the pair have taken in all kinds of raptors, including hawks, owls, falcons as well as fawns, bunnies, and bobcats! But no canines/no rabies.

“We never know what the call will be, but we are ready and prepared for whatever and keep a catch pole by the front door. We have the capacity, land handling and feeding equipment to manage a diverse wildlife group. We care for them until they are rehabilitated well enough for reintroduction by keeping them in as natural a state as possible. So…no public viewing or visits are allowed.”

Operating “The Dr. Doolittle Farm” as an all-volunteer organization, Charley and Doris have personally absorbed the costs of operating the facility totally out of pocket. When the state this past year mandated a new higher fencing requirement — taking their existing 4′ no climb horse fence to a 8′ solid fence — it created additional financial hardship on the couple and specifically kept them from taking in new fawns. Fawns, by state regulation, must be released by September 15, arriving in predictable seasonal need in May which gave the Koops very little time to adapt the property to the new fencing regulations.

While told over the years he and Doris were doing an “outstanding job” and providing exceptional community service, these new mandates certainly made the job harder to perform. In the past year, the Koops have made the journey nine times to Cornell Hospital, and rising fuel prices made this single component a $65 expense. Spread those costs out and multiply their time value and one gets a clear sense of the commitment the Koops have made to their recent life work.

A real-time example, Charley got a call last night for a great horned owl sitting in someone’s driveway in Norwich. Once secured at the facility, Charley noted the bird was greatly emaciated and had an injured wing. Through years of experience, he speculated the bird had flown into a high tensile fence while night hunting. He explains that while owls have superb and even mythical eyesight, they actually track by motion, sound and feeling. They don’t perceive things at close range and in focus.

He further explains that raptors do not take in their fluids by drinking water but by absorbing the bodily fluids from their prey. If they cannot hunt, they quickly dehydrate. Most people attempting to help a distressed bird administer droppers of water directly into the mouth, however birds have a hole in their tongue directly imputing to their lungs so this method accidentally can cause the birds to drown. Charley explains they only use a spray mister and the bird absorbs the fluid they need thru the skin and beak indirectly and at the right amount.

It is exactly this level of detail care and knowledge our greater community needs and wants in their volunteer wildlife EMS squad! Currently “in house” Charley and Doris are caring for 2 great horned owls, 2 barn owls, 2 red-tailed hawks, and 2 broad-winged hawks.

There has been a newly created GOFUNDME page at gofundme.com/f/doris-koop-wildlife-rehab to help offset the general and capital expenses. This is a community expression of gratitude for this ongoing work, so that when there is any wild thing in need of care they will be there and ready to go and as Charley says “deal with the cards they are handed.”

On the follow-up query of the Brookwood eagle reintroduction to its Otsego Lake home, Charley says the ultimate call for relocation is up to the state. Eagles, dominant in Otsego and Delaware County, are released into the Hudson Valley with trackers monitoring flight patterns for five days. These eagles are often spotted swimming out of the river as they get tired and need to get to shore having suddenly found themselves flying over water. When the state loses track of the eagle they will send a spotter back to the original site location and many times the bird will be there. Eagles can travel on upper atmosphere thermals 800-1,000 miles per day and go for three days on these currents so making the long trek “back home” isn’t as daunting as it may sound.

Hopefully, she will be circling our beloved lake again and blessing us all with her presence thanks to the unseen and invaluable players around the table game of Life.

For more information, visit New York State Wildlife Rehabilitation Council website at nyswrc.org.

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