Sweetbriar animals pop up in Stony Brook Village Center

Sweetbriar animals pop up in Stony Brook Village Center

By Serena Carpino

During the summer, Stony Brook Village Center is often bustling with friends grabbing iced coffee from Crazy Beans and families enjoying Sweet Mama’s ice cream after a long hike at Avalon Nature Preserve. Last Saturday, they were greeted by a friendly quartet of critters during one of Ward Melville Heritage Organization’s Pop-Up Saturday events. 

The animals were visiting from the rehabilitation program run by Sweetbriar Nature Center. Sweetbriar is a non-profit organization that provides shelter for injured animals and educates the public about the environment.

At the event, families met four different animals: Stitch the red-tailed hawk, Oreo the hedgehog, Holly the box turtle, and Turnip the eastern screen owl. They were able to pet Oreo and Holly as Christionna Carini, a Sweetbriar employee, told their stories. Oreo’s previous owner gave her up after learning that hedgehogs are nocturnal. Holly is one of many box turtles at the center.

“We have a lot of box turtles because they are at risk for habitat loss or injuries,” Carini said, “We also have box turtles that are perfectly healthy but since we don’t know where they came from we can’t release them.”

Though the families were not allowed to pet Stitch and Turnip, Carini shared their stories as well. Stitch was injured by a truck and suffered multiple injuries.

“Oftentimes what happens is people might throw an apple core out the window, a squirrel might run across the road for it and then the hawk goes for the squirrel,” Carini said.

Though Stitch lost an eye and part of her wing after the accident, she was fortunate that her bone breakage was not severe. Turnip has bad vision, which currently prevents him from surviving in the wild. 

During the afternoon, about 60 people attended the Pop-Up event. This is not the first time Sweetbriar employees have brought animals to community events. Gloria Rocchio, president of the Ward Melville Heritage Organization, said, “Over the years we’ve had them come to different events either in our cultural center or on the property. They are a very good nature preserve and rehabilitation facility.”

According to Rocchio, the Pop-Ups have been a popular source of entertainment for families throughout the summer.

“With the success that we’re receiving from the general public … we will definitely be doing more of them next year,” she said.

Pop-Up Saturdays, which are sponsored by Edward Jones of Stony Brook, will continue at the Stony Brook Village Center until Aug. 27. Rain dates are the following Sunday.

Aug. 13 features storytelling and sing-alongs for kids with Johnny Cuomo from 2 to 3 p.m. at the inner court and Burke & Brenda from 2 to 4 p.m. in front of the post office. Aug. 20 there will be adoptable dogs from 2 to 4 p.m. and a free martial arts class from 2 to 3 p.m. Marty Macaluso will be on hand Aug. 27 for caricatures.