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License revoked for wildlife rehab

DEC cites ‘repeated and ongoing violations’ at refuge; co-owner calls decision ‘misguided’

Wendy Hall of the Adirondack Wildlife Refuge lets Jonas, a red-tailed hawk, perch on her arm in May 2018 at the Big Green Shin-Dig event in front of Lake Placid High School. (Enterprise photo — Griffin Kelly)

WILMINGTON — A co-owner of the Adirondack Wildlife Refuge has had her state wildlife rehabilitation license revoked, forcing the organization to relocate some of its animals.

The state Department of Environmental Conservation revoked the wildlife rehabilitation license for Wendy Hall, who co-owns the refuge with her husband Steven, because of “repeated and ongoing violations of state and federal laws,” according to a spokeswoman for the department.

The DEC did not specify which laws had been violated by deadline.

“The action was the culmination of years of non-compliance with prior state enforcement actions, as well as repeated and ongoing violations of state and federal laws, regulations, and license conditions that are in place to protect public safety, native wildlife, and the animals in a rehabilitator’s care,” said DEC spokeswoman Maureen Wren.

The department warned Wendy Hall of its intention to revoke her license on Oct. 31, 2019. She did not appeal that notice, and her license was revoked on Nov. 25, 2019, according to the DEC.

The DEC ordered her to release healthy native animals in her care to the wild, and to transfer animals in need of care to another licensed wildlife rehabilitator in the state. She was required to surrender animals at the refuge that are federally protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. She is allowed to keep some animals held at the refuge under her DEC exhibition license.

Refuge responds

Steven Hall, reached by phone Tuesday, initially said his wife’s permit had not been revoked. He said she suspended her own permit.

“My wife is giving up her wildlife rehabilitation permit to focus on education,” he said. “We’re hiring someone who is already a wildlife rehabilitator to take over.

“You know what? This is a good organization that does good things.”

Steven cited the number of visitors to the wildlife refuge each year — over 50,000 — and local schools that bring students to visit the refuge.

He repeatedly asked a reporter who told the Enterprise about the permit, and when that reporter declined to share her source, he declined to answer any more questions.

“I’m not going to answer any more questions unless you help me out here,” he said.

Later that day, he emailed a prepared statement with a different story.

“During a spot inspection by the DEC and USFW (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service), it was revealed that we had an injured bald eagle, which had just arrived, but had not yet been registered,” the statement read. “Because the eagle had not been registered yet, the agencies decided to revoke Wendy’s rehab license, and asked us to transfer some of our ambassador birds of prey to other education facilities.

“If Wendy is guilty of anything, it is having a big heart, and hating the idea of euthanizing animals, who could still be sustained as ambassador animals, assuming quality of life issues, such as pain and comfort,” the statement continues. “We are in the process of hiring another rehabber to take over responsibility for supervising rehab at the refuge. None of this affects the wolves, bears, eagles, fox, bobcats, lynx, fisher or porcupine, and we are still open to the public for visits.”

In the statement, Steven characterized the agencies’ decision to revoke his wife’s permit as “misguided,” and said the taxpayers of New York state, visitors and students are the ones who are “punished” by the removal of their birds. He also said the birds would suffer.

“Many of these birds have been here for many years, have enclosure mates from which they will be separated, and it is very likely a high percentage may die, as a direct result of having their routines disrupted and their location changed,” he wrote.

He ended the statement by attaching a list of elected officials, college science professors and school administrators, leaders of youth and private organizations, and employees of two Lake Placid hotels, who he said have all visited the refuge and “see great value in supporting the mission of the refuge.”

In a second phone call, Steven reiterated that the permit revocation “will not affect anything we’re doing.”

Wilmington town Supervisor Roy Holzer, who was on Steven’s list, said he wasn’t aware of the situation.

“I don’t know of any of the violations they’re going through right now,” he said, “but I know hundreds, if not thousands, of people visit every year. It’s become a big part of Wilmington.

“I know they’ve been trying to do a lot of unique things to try to educate people. The Halls have been a great addition to our community.”

Refuge origins

Wendy, who grew up in the Bronx, had a career as a geriatric nurse before she landed in Wilmington, though she has said she’s been rehabilitating animals for around 45 years.

One of her patients left her a 50-acre parcel of land on Springfield Road in that patient’s will. Wendy moved here with her husband in 2000, and established the wildlife refuge on that slice of land by the West Branch of the AuSable River. When the animals could not be released into the wild, she applied for permits to keep them for educational purposes and opened up the refuge for tours. As of this past September, the refuge hosted birds such as ravens, bald eagles, owls and hawks, a peregrine falcon, an American kestrel and geese, as well as mammals such as wolves, a fisher, a gray fox and a porcupine.

Wendy has traveled with the refuge’s animals to put on programs about wildlife and habitat. She has spoken for a variety of organizations, including the Defenders of Wildlife, the Sierra Club, the Nature Conservancy and Important Birding Areas. She also gathers data on the animals she treats and shares it with Tara Miller, a Ph.D. student at Boston University.

The Adirondack Wildlife Refuge is a registered nonprofit organization.

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