Earthquake, hurricane and cold straps Antler Ridge Wildlife Sanctuary

| 15 Feb 2012 | 09:29

FRELINGHUYSEN — “I would have called you back sooner, but our llama had a baby we weren’t expecting,” said Kelly Simonetti, Director of Antler Ridge Wildlife Sanctuary to a caller. “We took in about 200 animals that were either displaced or injured because of the storm, and to have a baby born that no one knew was coming has been very interesting.” Antler Ridge Wildlife Sanctuary is a not for profit organization that Simonetti started nine years ago out of her garage. The facility that now takes up about a quarter of her and her husband’s 120-acre homestead usually rescues sick and orphaned baby wildlife from spring births for release back into the wild during the fall. This year’s unusual environmental circumstances increased endangered animals being cared for at the site by over 25 percent. “We usually take in about 800 animals a year. This year we took in our usual amount, then after Irene, took in 200 more,” she said. Simonetti believes that wildlife was already stressed from the earthquake on Aug. 23. The flooding and downed trees Irene left behind meant that animals needed to find new homes, relocate their young, find new food supplies and encroach on each other’s territory. “Mothers moved their young while the waters were rising. If they didn’t move fast enough, they were cut off from the young. Mothers were killed, leaving babies helpless and unable to survive on their own.” Of the 200 animals that Antler Ridge took in after the storm, the majority were squirrels, but included raccoons, skunks, opossums and a fawn. “The fawn was found in a stream in Hackettstown, swimming but trying to escape the water. She was rescued and brought here. She apparently had been in the water for a while.” Irene left the Simonettis and Antler Ridge without power for seven days. All operations that needed indoor support were moved to Simonetti’s kitchen which was powered by a generator. Over the next five days, calls were nearly nonstop, topping the 400 mark. “We were receiving calls from all over the state including Wayne, Passaic, Kearny and Nutley, because there are less rehabilitation centers now due to the poor economy and shortage of funds.” Simonetti said their frugality has allowed them to have veterinarian Karen Dashfield on staff full time this year. Dashfield runs a local, house-call-only, practice in Sussex and Warren County. The work that Simonetti is expensive. “We operate solely on donations and volunteer support. The bulk of the money that supports this operation is my husband’s and mine. We both have full time jobs. We could not do the volume we do without the help of our outside financial supporters and we are forever thankful to them.“ They have an open house scheduled October. 15 from 11 to 4 at 52 County Road 661, Frelinghuysen (Newton mailing) when they are teaming up with Project Self Sufficiency and a breast cancer awareness campaign. “We hope people will come out, have some fun, learn about our organization and sponsor a hay bale. We are selling 50 haybales as $100 each. The hay bales are arranged in the shape of a ribbon, and each one sold will be painted pink. Half of the money will go to Antler Ridge and half of the money will go to Project Self-Sufficiency and their mammogram/breast cancer awareness outreach program. We are really in need of corporate sponsors with programs that match dollars of employees. I can’t stress it enough. What we really need here in order to help local wildlife is money and volunteer support.” For more information on Antler Ridge go to