Mobilizing to help squirrels & sea turtles in the wake of Hurricane Irene
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, September 2011:
Hurricane-downgraded-to-tropical storm Irene swept from the
Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico past southern Florida, blew out to
sea, then roared back inland and gusted almost straight north into
Quebec. Torrential rains inundated roads and other infrastructure,
especially in upstate New York and Vermont.
Then, after raining cats and dogs, Irene for three days
rained baby squirrels on wildlife rescuers from North Carolina to New
England. “There’s been a flood of calls about squirrels dropping out
of trees everywhere,” Humane Society of the U.S. urban wildlife
program field director Laura Simon told Pamela McLoughlin of the New
Haven Register. “It’s baby season,” Simon explained. Squirrel
nests were among the first casualties of the winds and downpour.
“We had well over 250 baby squirrels admitted,” Outer Banks
Wildlife Shelter nursery supervisor Herda Henderson told Aniesa
Holmes of the Jacksonville Daily News.
“We took in over 100 baby squirrels–many badly injured,”
said Possumwood Acres Wildlife Sanctuary director Toni O’Neil. “We
were fortunate enough to have a generator so we could keep them warm
and feed them warm formula.”
The Virginia Beach SPCA received 185 baby squirrels, 35
injured birds, and about 15 rabbits, spokesperson Teresa Lamarche
told Virginian-Pilot reporter Rita Frankenberry. The Wildlife Center
of Virginia took in at least 158 squirrels, including 29 who were
transferred from the Virginia Beach SPCA.
“We have been inundated with baby squirrels, songbirds,
and shorebirds,” Wildlife In Crisis founder Dara Reid told ANIMAL
PEOPLE, from Weston, Connecticut. “We’ve received hundreds of
calls from people finding victims,” Reid recounted. “Countless baby
squirrel and songbird nests were blown out of the trees and
shorebirds were flooded out of their homes. Even baby raccoons
nestled in hollow trees were injured when their trees were knocked
The numbers of squirrels found alive diminished farther
north. The Ansonia Nature Center in Connecticut received 27, said
assistant director Alison Rubelmann.
Sisters Mary Vincent and Kateri of the Little Sisters of the
Poor senior citizens home in Somerville, Massachusetts, rescued two
baby squirrels from a fallen tree, reported Boston Globe
correspondent Amanda Cedrone. With the help of instructions gleaned
from a web site, the nuns kept the squirrels alive until they could
be transferred to a wildlife rehabilitation center in Rhode Island.
Earlier, eleven-foot waves destroyed about about a third of
the sea turtle nests in northern Palm Beach County, Florida,
Loggerhead Marinelife Center biologist Kelly Martin told Palm Beach
Post staff writer Bill DiPaolo. The Loggerhead Marinelife Center
took in about 250 sea turtle hatchlings for two to four weeks of
care, depending on their age, before release.
About 10% of the sea turtle nests in southern Palm Beach
County were washed away, said Kirt Rusenko of the Gumbo Limbo Nature
Center in Boca Raton. “Luckily, Irene came late in the nesting
season,” Rusenko told DiPaolo. At Melbourne Beach, Barrier Island
Sanctuary steward Heidi Grooms saw raccoons feasting on newly exposed
From 200 to 300 sea turtle nests were lost at Cape Island,
South Carolina, along with a mile of nesting habitat. About 1,000
sea turtles per year–about a third of the South Carolina nesting
population–lay their eggs along the formerly six-mile long Cape
Island shore. Little more than a sand bar, Cape Island was cut
completely apart by four new channels, reported Bo Petersen of the
Charleston Post & Courier.
About 110 sea turtle nests were damaged at Topsail Island,
Karen Sota of the Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Hospital told Aniesa
Holmes of the Jacksonville Daily News.
“The wild colonial Spanish mustangs of Corolla weathered
Irene exceptionally well,” reported Corolla Wild Horse Fund director
Karen McCalphin. “Most of the horses took shelter in the maritime
forest ridge that runs up the island. Some sheltered under vacation
home carports,” McCalphin said.
The Center for Conservation Biol-ogy at William & Mary
College in Virginia reported that Irene destroyed or damaged nearly
half of the 154 bald eagle nests along the James River. But center
director Brian Watts told USA Today on August 29 that a
radio-outfitted whimbrel named Chinquapin had safely reached a
resting point on Eleuthera Island in the Caribbean, despite having
flown through Irene’s path. Chinquapin began his annual fall
migratory flight from Southampton Island in Nunavut to the mouth of
the Amazon in Brazil on August 22. Chinquapin knew something about
surviving hurricanes: in 2010 the center tracked him as he skirted
The Humane Society of the U.S. sent emergency personnel to
Pamlico County and Craven County, in North Carolina, and later set
up an emergency shelter in Brattleboro, Vermont, among the
hardest-hit communities. The nearby town of Newfane, Vermont, was
all but destroyed.
The four Associated Humane Societies shelters in New Jersey
prepared for flooding, but did not experience any. Instead,
Associated Humane housed pets for displaced people in the Fairfield,
New Jersey area. “A very big tree and several small trees came down
in our Forked River facility,” Associated Humane president Roseann
Trezza told ANIMAL PEOPLE.
“We had quite an eventful weekend,” North Shore Animal
League operations director Joanne Yohannan said. “Thankfully, Irene
wasn’t as devastating as she could have been in our region. We are
part of the Pet Safe Coalition on Long Island,” Yohannan told ANIMAL
PEOPLE, “and we were able to deploy five mobile units to assist
with transport and safe shelter for the pets of evacuees. We have
reached out to a few shelters upstate and will continue to do so,”
“American SPCA responders from across the country deployed to
New York City in anticipation of the storm,” reported ASPCA
spokesperson Rebecca McNeill. “The ASPCA helped hundreds of animals
throughout the city’s five boroughs,” McNeill said, “assessing the
needs at evacuation centers where pets were welcomed and delivering
rabies vaccines and microchips for cats and dogs at the emergency
shelters. Additionally, the ASPCA transported approximately 100
animals who were temporarily evacuated from a Long Island shelter.”
Upstate New York
As Irene swept north, the ASPCA, International Fund for
Animal Welfare, and PetSmart Charities sent personnel and supplies
to the Animal Shelter of Schoharie Valley, in Cave, New York,
southwest of Albany, which housed displaced animals from the flooded
areas to the east.
At the Mohawk & Hudson Humane Society in Menands, an Albany
suburb, “There was a danger that the humane society itself might
flood, which would mean relocating almost 500 animals,” blogged
executive director Brad Shear.
When that threat subsided, Shear and three other Mohawk &
Hudson staff drove to the Schoharie Valley. “It wasn’t until we got
close to Middleburgh and the Schoharie Creek that we saw
the devastation,” Shear recounted, posting a photo of a barbeque
grill and propane tank draped over a power line to show how high the
“One of the oldest farms in the area was nearly wiped out,”
Shear said. “The woman who lived in the house had not been warned to
evacuate and found herself trapped when the waters started to rise.
She gathered her cats and dogs and spent the night on the second
floor. All she could do was hope that the 150 cattle in the barn
would make it through the night. Rescuers were unable to get to her
because of the strength of the rushing water. Amazingly all of the
cattle did survive, standing in four to five feet of water for most
of a day and into the night.
“Going from one call for assistance to another,” Shear
wrote, “we were constantly flagged down by people who were missing
pets or needed help continuing to care for those they were able to
keep. We were the first animal rescue team these towns had seen.
Many people wanted to keep their pets with them because they were
the only comfort they had left and just needed food and supplies. We
gave out what we had and coordinated deliveries of additional
“There were many calls about livestock,” Shear continued.
“Some had been swept away . Some were lucky enough to be moved to
higher ground just in time. All we could do was offer to arrange
support with food, supplies, and medication.”
“Our shelter suffered no damage and is running business as
usual,” reported the Second Chance Animal Shelter in Shaftsbury,
Vermont. Formerly called the Bennington County Humane Society, the
Second Chance shelter stands on high ground near several areas that
were extensively flooded, including the vicinity of the original
ANIMAL PEOPLE headquarters on the Vermont border near Shushan, New
York. Local news coverage included photos and video of three damaged
bridges within a few miles of the former ANIMAL PEOPLE office. The
Battenkill River for a time submerged the nearest paved road.
ANIMAL PEOPLE newswire monitor Cathy Czapla reported that
flash flooding came within two feet of her home in Chelsea, Vermont.
Roads in the vicinity were extensively damaged, but Czapla was able
to maintain online communication, and kept working right through the
Vermont news coverage featured several difficult rescues of
animals from high water and fast currents. Losses of dairy cattle
and chickens were reported in several different parts of Vermont,
along with losses of pasture and hay stockpiled for the winter.
Tropical Storm Lee, following Irene north a week later,
refilled flooded waterways. Staff of the ZooAmerica North American
Wildlife Park in Hershey, Pennsylvania, shot two bison who were
drowning in their pen and could not be evacuated.