Bird Is the Word at West Side Wildlife Rehab Center
New Yorkers might assume there’s a wildlife rehabilitation center somewhere within the city limits—a reasonable assumption in a city that boasts three zoos, a botanical garden in every outer borough, and is home to many animal and environmental rights groups.
In fact, New York is the only major U.S. city without a wildlife rehab center. The Wild Bird Fund is about to change that by opening the first center of its kind on the Upper West Side, expanding its capacity to treat injured wild animals—mainly birds—by 100 percent.
The non-profit foundation is led by Rita McMahon and Karen Heidgerd, both licensed by the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation to rehabilitate wild birds and by the federal Department of the Interior to work with migratory birds.
McMahon stumbled upon this calling by accident—she’s a television consultant by trade who met Heidgerd, a veterinary nurse, when she started rehabbing pigeons in her free time. They’ve been expanding ever since, and have worked out of the Animal General facility on Columbus Avenue for eight years, where veterinarians volunteer their time for surgeries when needed.
With the help of an angel investor, the Wild Bird Fund has leased a large storefront across the street and is renovating it in preparation for a brand-new center. They’re planning an educational theater, a pool for waterfowl, a flying room and enough space to house twice as many birds as they currently care for.
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