Owl’s injury leads to creation of new animal wellness fund at Watertown zoo

Zoo New York's animal wellness fund

WATERTOWN, N.Y. (WWNY) - When it comes to injured animals, sometimes zoos have to make difficult decisions.

Watertown’s Zoo New York is launching a new fund to help make sure money doesn’t make those calls.

Beaker, a great grey owl, is a recent example.

“He’s doing fine now,” zoo executive director Larry Sorel said.

He sits tucked away in his habitat at Zoo New York, unable to fly.

Seven or eight years ago, Beaker was hit by a truck in Alaska and was later brought to the zoo to get medical care.

The owl’s eye was badly damaged and got worse over the years.

This summer, a tough decision had to be made: spend thousands of dollars to remove it or put Beaker down.

“We didn’t like that option,” Sorel said.

So, the zoo’s staff and the community stepped up, raising about $2,000.

It’s that generosity that caught the Northern New York Community Foundation’s attention.

“Just the willingness to give in a time like this,” NNYCF assistant director Max Delsignore said.

The foundation is now partnering with the zoo to create a wellness fund to help out other animals like Beaker in the future and avoid the choice between spending money and saving an animal’s life.

“If we can build a significant enough endowment, we can assure the animals are taken care of properly,” Sorel said. “That’s the goal.”

For every dollar donated to the fund, the community foundation will match up to $25,000, a big boost to the zoo’s finances.

“It gives us the opportunity to hire a staff veterinarian so that we have staff 24 hours, 7 days a week available to us,” Sorel said. “It allows us to outfit our clinic with additional tools needed to provide the care.”

The Animal Wellness Fund is currently financed for two years.

The zoo hopes to raise the money to keep it going for years to come.

Donations can be made directly to the Northern New York Community Foundation, 131 Washington Street, Watertown, NY 13601 or at www.nnycf.org.

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