Although spring and Easter are still a few weeks away, registration for these popular annual events is now underway:
Spring Festival and Egg Hunt at Sweetbriar
Sweetbriar Nature Center, 62 Eckernkamp Drive, Smithtown hosts its annual Spring Festival and Egg Hunt on March 26 from noon to 4 p.m. Join them for a day filled with events, fun, and many wonderful animals. There will be games, animal presentations, crafts, face painting, and more. Egg hunts will be held throughout the day with prizes and a separate egg hunt for 2-4-year-olds to do with their parents. A special long-eared guest will be available for photo opportunities and refreshments will be available for purchase. Bring a basket. Tickets are $20 per child, $5 adults. To reserve your spot, visit www.sweetbriarnc.org. For more information, call 631-979-6344.
Benner’s Farm Easter Egg Hunts
Benner’s Farm, 56 Gnarled Hollow Road, East Setauket invites the community to their annual Easter Egg Hunt Weekend on April 8 and 9 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. There will be craft vendors, baby bunnies and chicks to hold, baby goats and sheep to see and pet, many other barnyard animals to visit with and feed, an egg hunt in the fields every half hour from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. (book your time slot online), pictures with the Spring Bunny and more! This is a ticketed event only. Tickets are $12 per person and are sold only online at https://www.eventcreate.com/e/easteregghuntsatbennersfarm. No tickets will be sold at the door. Questions? Call 631-689-8172.
Egg Hunts at the Hatchery
Cold Spring Harbor Fish Hatchery, 1660 Route 25A, Cold Spring Harbor will host egg hunts on March 18, 19, 25, 26, April 1, 2, 6, 7 and 8 in 20 minute sessions from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. for children up to the age of 6 years old. Tickets are $12 per participating child, $5 “helper siblings” ages 7 to 12, $6 seniors, and $7 adults. To register, visit www.cshfishhatchery.org. For further details, call 516-692-6768.
Hoover the Goat has foreseen the future…of football. Located in Smithtown, Sweetbriar Nature Center’s resident sports seer has predicted that the Philadelphia Eagles will beat the Kansas City Chiefs in the Super Bowl this Sunday.
In a video posted to Sweetbriar’s social media accounts on Feb. 5, Hoover, who normally prefers hay, vegetables, and goat food, can be seen rather emphatically eating up the idea that the Eagles will take home the Vince Lombardi Trophy.
If there is a method to his magic(Hoover has correctly predicted the Super Bowl winner for the past five years) he has selected not to share it. When pressed for comment about his decisive digestives, Hoover declined to spill the oats.
Since he is not one to reveal trade secrets, the origin of Hoover’s psychic prowess remains a mystery. Nonetheless, he is adamant in how he articulates his chosen team.
“We make up pictures of the two teams, and whichever one he eats is the winner. Hoover is very precise: he thinks about it and then takes a chomp,” said Wildlife Rehabilitation Director Janine Bendicksen. As a rule, Hoover does not deign to get emotionally involved in the team he tastes, but Bendicksen does wonder if they would otherwise cheer for the same one.
“I am just curious to see if he goes for the underdog or the sure win. I always go for the underdog,” she added.
Rooting for the underdog is a common experience for the staff and volunteers of Sweetbriar, a wildlife education, preservation, and rehabilitation center; they may see and treat hundreds of injured animals in a year. Many come for a recuperative stay and are rereleased when rehabilitated, but others live out their days in structures located on the preserve’s property, tended to and supported by a dedicated group of caregivers.
A Sweetbriar rescue who has lived at his forever home for 13 years, Hoover is one of approximately 100 permanent residents. He is, thus far, the only creature that has exhibited such clairvoyance at the sanctuary.
“We were looking to figure out an animal that might be able to predict the Super Bowl as a spoof, and Hoover has never been wrong,” Bendicksen said.
Although Hoover does not perform his talent for a live audience, opting to make his selection with only a couple of his opposable-thumbed friends in attendance, Sweetbriar does offer many other many programs and events that allow patrons to interact with the organization’s ambassador animals.
“Hoover prefers not to participate in our events and we always honor the animal’s feelings,” said Program Coordinator Veronica Sayers.
Still, the impact of Hoover’s social media presence is an asset to Sweetbriar’s efforts to educate and inform the public while protecting and preserving wildlife and its natural habitat. As a nonprofit that relies heavily on donations, Sweetbriar Nature Center utilizes all the tools it has available including social media and community outreach.
“We mainly use this to educate the public. The more people know about wildlife, the easier our jobs get,” Sayers said. “Social media is a way to get to a lot of people and educate them. For example, in the last five years, possums have gone from being viewed as pests to being appreciated. Social media helped fix that perception.”
To witness Hoover make his prediction, visit Sweetbriar Nature Center on its Facebook page or on Instagram @sweetbriarnaturecenter.
Sweetbriar Nature Center is located at 62 Eckernkamp Drive, Smithtown. The nature center and preserve are open daily, from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. To learn more about Sweetbriar’s upcoming activities and programs, including a day camp for children ages 6-11, during the February public school break, visit www.sweetbriarnc.org or call 631-979-6344.
In celebration of Galentine’s Day, Sweetbriar Nature Center, 62 Eckernkamp Drive, Smithtown will host a Galentine’s Hoots and Handmade Pottery event on Friday, Feb. 10 from 6:30 to 9 p.m.
Get your gals & pals together for a crafty evening of making pottery and meeting some amazing animals. No experience needed! Alison from Pottery on Wheels will teach you how to throw pottery on a wheel and make sculptures. The fun event includes everything you’ll need to make two hand thrown wheel pieces and a small sculpture. You’ll also be meeting some of the Center’s amazing ambassador owls and other animals. Light snacks and drinks will be served.
Pieces will be fired and glazed back at Alison’s pottery studio and returned to be picked up about 2 weeks later. A wonderful opportunity to learn pottery and have the most unique pottery experience!
This event for teens & adults (anyone under 17y must be with an adult). Tickets are $100 per person. To register, visit www.sweetbriarnc.org. Questions? Call 631-979-6344.
Birds of a feather, come together to support Sweetbriar Nature Center’s latest event, Rock ‘N’ Raptors, that puts the “fun” in fundraisers! The celebration will be held on Sunday, Dec. 11 at the Bates House, 1 Bates Road in Setauket from 2 to 6 p.m. Proceeds will benefit the Smithtown wildlife rehabilitation and nature preserve.
“We have never done an event that featured only raptors, though they are the majority of what we have [at Sweetbriar], so it is an important opportunity to promote them. They are really expensive to feed…and since organizations like ours are not funded by the state or local governments, we largely depend on the generosity of our supporters,” said Sweetbriar’s Director of Wildlife Rehabilitation Janine Bendicksen.
The fundraiser will feature live music, raffles, games, and other activities. An auction, currently underway online, will conclude in person that night. St. James Brewery will provide beer and other beverages while Maui Chop House’s food truck will be onsite offering savory snacks. Homemade baked goods, created by volunteers, will be available for purchase. The guests of honor, raptors including a barn owl, Eurasian eagle owl, great horned owl, red tailed hawk, will make a fashionably late entrance as the music fades out, intermingling with guests and performing a demonstration.
Brimstone (William M. Kucmierowski), a pro-wrestler, author, actor, and host of The Grindhouse Radio, will act as Master of Ceremonies for the afternoon. Three different tribute bands will provide the soundtrack for making merry and raising money: The Petty Rumors, a Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers cover band; Streetfighter, a Rolling Stones cover band; and 70s Rock Parade, a genre cover band. Each will each play a 45 minute set. All of the entertainment is donating their time.
Having first connected with Sweetbriar through social media when he reached out to Bendicksen to see if he could meet baby squirrels being cared for in its rehabilitation unit, Brimstone is happy to lend his name and talents since he wants to amplify both the center’s work and its needs.
“As a native Long Islander, I have known about Sweetbriar for many years, but I did not know in detail the true heroes they are until I was going back and forth with Janine on social media,” Brimstone said. “I got to see what they do at Sweetbriar and how they rehabilitate the animals. They are overworked and underappreciated and it kills me that they do not get the help, attention, and assistance that they deserve.”
John Davis, who has been volunteering at Sweetbriar for two years, was similarly drawn to work with Sweetbriar after he visited the center and explored the nature preserve while participating in a photo shoot with a photography club. Now, he volunteers there a couple days a week and primarily handles the raptor residents, inspired by their majesty even in adversity.
“They are majestic, powerful, efficient, streamlined, glorious hunters that are incredibly beautiful. What I find most interesting with our raptors is despite their shortcomings, whether it’s wing injuries or vision loss…or both, they’ve all found a way to adapt. They know their ownaviaries and navigate then with precision despite not being able to fly or see,” he said.
As a tribute to the raptors and a sign of his dedication to the cause, Davis is coming out of retirement for one night only, resuming his role as the bassist and a vocalist for 70s Rock Parade. (He retired from the group last year.) Davis also helped connect the musicians with Sweetbriar.
The power of community interdependency, both in the animal kingdom and human society, are themes that tie this event and Sweetbriar’s mission together. Located on 54 acres of diverse garden, woodland, field, and wetland habitats, Sweetbriar’s rehabilitation unit, in addition to the raptors, houses other animals, such as rabbits, squirrels, songbirds and even tarantulas.
There are over 100 permanent residents who call Sweetbriar home. Many of them live inside the center, but most reside in permanent enclosures. The staff and volunteers of the center, who may receive hundreds of calls a day about distressed or injured wildlife, treat more than 2000 patients a year, over half of whom are rehabilitated and released back into the wild.
“What the people of Sweetbriar do is incredible. They care for injured animals rehabilitate them, if they are not able to be released, Sweetbriar keeps them for their lifespans,” Davis added.
Ultimately, the goal of Rock ‘N’ Raptors is simple: to enable to Sweetbriar to continue its lifesaving work while encouraging people of all ages to appreciate and enjoy the beauty of the natural world and its inhabitants.
“Sweetbriar is so special, and as a nonprofit, it relies on people’s generosity and good hearts…I show up to the center and my blood pressure goes down; it is my zen,” Davis said.
Tickets to Rock ‘N’ Raptors are $25 each, free for children under the age of 12. To register, visit www.sweetbriarnc.org. For more information, call 631-979-6344.
Leonardo “Leo” DiCatprio, the Eurasian Lynx that was loose and eventually captured on Long Island earlier this summer, has settled into his permanent home at the Holtsville Ecology Site and Animal Preserve. Joining the more than 100 wild and farm animals that reside at the Animal Preserve, Leo was revealed to the public in his new enclosure on Nov. 22.
“We are grateful that the DEC and SPCA felt the Ecology Site was the right environment for Leo and we are thrilled to have him among our residents,” said Brookhaven Highway Department Superintendent Daniel Losquadro. “However, we hope when people come to enjoy this facility and view the animals, they understand the dangers in keeping wild animals as pets. While we have no idea why Leo was being kept as a pet, we are very happy that he is safe and healthy at our facility.”
Since arriving at the Ecology Site in August after being cared for at Sweetbriar Nature Center, Leo has gained 15 pounds and enjoys various enrichment activities to stimulate his natural behaviors. He can often be seen running, stretching his legs, climbing, jumping and pouncing —performing all natural cat-like behaviors.
“The Suffolk County SPCA is pleased to have a close working relationship with the Holtsville Ecology Site and its wonderful, caring staff,” said Suffolk County SPCA Chief Roy Gross.
The Holtsville Ecology Site and Animal Preserve, 249 Buckley Road, Holtsville is open seven days a week from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Visitors can view the animals, free of charge, including peacocks and mustangs, a bobcat, an American black bear and an American bald eagle. Call 631-451-5330 for more information.
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.
A lynx was captured and brought to Sweetbriar Nature Center in Smithtown after roaming around the Town of Islip for three days.
On July 29, Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D) and Suffolk County Police Department officials announced the capture of the lynx. It was first spotted on the loose July 26. The SCPD received a call on July 29 that the animal was seen on Hawthorne Avenue in Central Islip after a few sightings around the town. Third Precinct and Emergency Service Section officers captured it after it was tranquilized with the help of Frankie Floridia, from Strong Island Animal Rescue League, who brought the animal to Sweetbriar.
The SCPD has not confirmed who the owner of the lynx is.
Now named Leonardo De Catprio, after he arrived at the nature center, the veterinarian examined him and found he had some parasites, ear mites and a small wound on his face and mouth, according to Janine Bendicksen, the center’s director of wildlife rehabilitation and curator. Overall, he was in good shape and estimated to be around a year old.
She said she was in the vet’s office when Leonardo was being examined. His mouth is big, she said, with teeth 2 inches long. As he was being sedated, he swatted and roared.
“It was just scared,” she said. “I’m sure it has a very sweet side, too. You just don’t know. It’s a wild animal.”
Bendicksen said Leonardo is currently not visible to the public as lynxes are nocturnal.
“It’s not something that wants to interact with the public,” she added.
A GoFundMe page organized by a Sweetbriar employee has raised more than $2,400 toward a $3,000 goal as of Aug. 3. The money will go toward the care of the lynx as well as for the specialized food he needs.
“It eats a lot,” Bendicksen said. “It’s 35 pounds now, and it’s probably going to double in size.”
She added owning such a pet is illegal. Lynx do not make good house pets, she said, and people shouldn’t be fooled by their cuteness.
“They’re very cute and very sweet when they are young, but when they become adults, they’re not pack animals,” Bendicksen said. “They become solitary. They become aggressive. They become territorial. They don’t want to be with their momma and daddy and family anymore. They want their own territory and do things on their own.”
The deep-wooded animals, which are not native to the area, are known to travel as far as 7 miles when they hunt, according to Bendicksen.
Eventually, the lynx will be moved to a sanctuary once an appropriate one is found. The Suffolk County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and New York State Department of Environmental Conservation are helping in the efforts to find Leonardo a new home.
“It is an unusual thing for us to have at Sweetbriar,” she said. “We deal with
The Ward Melville Heritage Organization will be hosting seven Pop-Up Saturdays at the Stony Brook Village Center, 111 Main St., Stony Brook on Saturdays from July 9 to Aug. 20, from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m.This family friendly summer series will be filled with animals, magic, music, art and even Tai Chi.
Pop-Up Saturdays are free to the public and except where noted, will take place in Stony Brook Village Center’s Inner Court (by the Rustic Loft and Crazy Beans). Rain dates are the following day. The events are sponsored by Edward Jones located at 97 Main Street in Stony Brook Village.
On July 9, experience the Magic of Amore from 2 to 3 p.m., and meet kittens and cats from North Fork Country Kids Rescue Vixen from 2 to 4 p.m.
On July 16, Sweetbriar Nature Center of Smithtown will bring birds of prey and touchable animals from2 to 3 p.m. and Silent Mind Tai Chi from 3 to 4 p.m.
On July 23, Brenda and Burke will be performing original and cover songs in the genres of R&B, Roots, Blues and Contemporary Acoustic from 2 to 4 p.m. in front of the Stony Brook Post Office, and Silent Mind Tai Chi returns from 3 to 4 p.m.
On July 30, Caricature artist Marty Macaluso (no rain date) will visit the village and draw caricatures of individuals and groups from 2 to 4 p.m. Silent Mind Tai Chi will also take place from 3 to 4 p.m.
On August 6, Sweetbriar Nature Center returns with birds of prey and animals to touch from 2to 4 p.m., as well as Silent Mind Tai Chi from 3 to 4 p.m.
On August 13, enjoy storytelling and singing by Johnny Cuomo from 2 to 3 p.m. and enjoy the music of Burke and Brenda at the Stony Brook Post Office from 2pm to 4pm.
On August 20, the last pop-up Saturday, Little Shelter Animal Rescue and Adoption Center will visit the center with adoptable dogs from 2 to 4 p.m. and the last Silent Mind Tai Chi class will take place from 3 to 4 p.m.
To learn more about Pop-Up Saturdays and the Ward Melville Heritage Organization, call 631-751-2244.
Calling all photographers! Sweetbriar Nature Center, 62 Eckernkamp Drive, Smithtown hosts a program titled Up-Close for Photos — Birds of Prey on Saturday, Feb. 26 from 12:30 to 2 p.m. Take photos of birds of prey on natural perches and on the glove. You may bring tripods and any photo equipment you’d like. Learn about the center’s raptors while you’re photographing, and meet a special visitor that doesn’t live at the center. $25 per person. To register, visit www.sweetbriarnc.org or call 631-979-6344.
When North Shore residents come across an injured animal, their first instinct is to reach out to a rescue or rehabilitation organization such as Sweetbriar Nature Center in Smithtown.
Last Friday, Head of the Harbor residents called the center when they found what turned out to be a true seal pup, also known as a gray seal, washed up in the woods on the side of Harbor Road. The animal had been moaning and crying and seemed to be in pain.
Janine Bendicksen, director of wildlife rehabilitation and curator at Sweetbriar, said while the center’s representatives were willing to assess the problem, ultimately they called the New York Marine Rescue Center as Sweetbriar is not equipped to take care of marine animals. The nonprofit located in Riverhead rescues injured marine life and has a hotline, 631-369-9829, to call when people find one anywhere in the state. It’s the only facility equipped in New York to rescue the animals properly.
Bendicksen said, at first, the good Samaritans who found the seal thought it might be an otter.
“I know that most often these animals don’t need help,” Bendicksen said, adding, however, the callers seemed concerned due to it becoming dark outside and saying it looked weak and wasn’t responding.
Due to poor cell service, the good Samaritans in Head of the Harbor couldn’t send a photo to Sweetbriar, so they waved down a passing truck. Using a blanket, they were able to get the seal in the vehicle’s bed and bring it to Sweetbriar. Once the animal experts at the nature center saw that it was a seal pup, they called the marine rescue center immediately to pick up the animal.
“It was the cutest thing you’ve ever seen,” Bendicksen said, adding the seal weighs around 40 pounds. Adult males can grow to be 700 to 800 pounds.
Bendicksen said what many people don’t know is that when it comes to animals such as seals, they are federally protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972 and shouldn’t be approached or moved. People can be fined if they remove such an animal, however, the Head of the Harbor residents were not liable due to believing the animal was injured.
Maxine Montello, rescue program director with the marine rescue center, said when spotting a seal or other water animals such as sea turtles on land, people should keep 150 feet away from the creature — about the length of three buses.
Montello said seeing seals on the North Shore is rare as they prefer the ocean, but it is possible to see them as they sometimes swim into the Sound looking for food. She said if they are spotted on the beach, most of the time the young seals are just looking for food or relaxing, which is called hauling out. The seals can be separated from their mothers after a few weeks because they are completely weaned and need to learn to fend for themselves.
She said if people spot a seal, they can call the hotline number and someone will be sent out to see if the animal is acting normal through aninfield assessment. Sometimes the seals can be dehydrated, she added, as they don’t drink water and get fluids from eating fish. If they are not eating properly, problems can occur.
Montello said the seals make noises that may sound like they are in distress, but that may not be the case in all circumstances.
“When they’re young, it comes off as a cute little cry, but it actually is their way of defending themselves,” Montello said.
Sometimes they will scratch their face to show how big their claws are or open their mouth to show their big teeth, she added.
The rescued seal pup from Head of the Harbor is about 5 weeks old, Montello said, completely weaned and has been diagnosed with conjunctivitis.
“Our goal is to have the animal show us he can eat on his own,” she said.
The seal, which has not been named yet, is receiving fluid therapy to help with hydration. It will soon be given what Montello described as a milkshake-like drink made of fish and the next step is to feed whole fish to the seal.
The rescue center also ensures that a seal can swim properly before being released. Therapy for an injured or sick animal can vary from four to eight weeks but some recover in 72 hours. Montello said it hasn’t been determined yet how long it will take for the Head of the Harbor seal to be released.
She said the best practice is to step back if a seal is spotted while walking on the beach.
“We also tell people that you’re too close to the animal if you’re changing the animal’s behavior,” Montello said. “So, if the animal was resting and then you approach it and now it’s alert, that means you’re altering that animal’s behavior. The vocalization is a kind of a warning sign to step back. You just don’t want to stress them out.”
For more information on how to assist NYMRC, visit nymarinerescue.org/how-to-help/.