About Gwendolyn Craig

Gwen is an award-winning journalist covering environmental policy for the Explorer since January 2020. She also takes photos and videos for the Explorer's magazine and website. She is a current member of the Legislative Correspondents Association of New York. Gwen has worked at various news outlets since 2015. Prior to moving to upstate New York, she worked for a D.C. Metro-area public relations firm, producing digital content for clients including the World Health Organization, the Low Income Investment Fund and Rights and Resources Initiative. She has a master's degree in journalism from the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University. She has bachelor's degrees in English and journalism, with a concentration in ecology and evolutionary biology, from the University of Connecticut. Gwen is also a part-time figure skating coach. Contact her at (518) 524-2902 or gwen@adirondackexplorer.org. Sign up for Gwen’s newsletter here.

Reader Interactions


  1. Stephen Hall says

    What is the value of the Adirondack Wildlife Refuge to the citizens of New York State? For starters, 50,000 people visit the Refuge every year. To most Chambers of Commerce and Visitor Bureaus, that means more hotel and motel rooms, and more seats in restaurants. No one doubts that we are valuable to the local economies, and our reviews on Trip Advisor and other rating systems bear this out.

    More importantly, every school and college within 100 miles of the Refuge, routinely sends their students to the Refuge, so these professors and teachers obviously see value in exposing their students to our education program. During this process of relieving Wendy of her rehab and collect and possess licenses, the DEC has never discussed or even acknowledged any values to the citizenry beyond the DEC’s rules and regulations. They simply don’t care!

    As you know, Wendy is now dying of an inoperable sarcoma, and currently in home hospice. She can barely walk and has had nothing to do with the Refuge for the past year. I’m now 74 and trying to retire. I’m currently Wendy’s main hospice support person, and when she passes, I will likely spend most of my time between Alaska, BC and Yellowstone. I’ve always taken two months of each year to go find my favorite animals, grizzlies, moose and wolves, and I’ll just expand that period.

    We have suggested to the DEC again and again that they let a new management team take over the Refuge, run the rehab and collect and possess, and everyone, from the citizenry, the tourists, the students, and to the church, scouting and social groups, everyone wins. With the DEC’s solution, effectively shutting the Refuge down until new licenses are approved, everyone loses. This is not about fixing the problem. This is about fixing the blame. This is merely punishment.

    Wendy is an artist, not a clerk, and she admitted that she was careless with the paperwork, and guilty of violations, even though some of them were silly and made no sense, like the ear tag violation involving the bears, while others were using the wrong form or not having the paperwork done in a timely manner. Please publish the attached pastel by Wendy, to give your readers another sense of who Wendy is. She’s done a hell of a lot more for wildlife than any of these bureaucrats, and she knows a hell of a lot more about wildlife than any of them.

    Anyone who has worked with wild or captive bred animals, quickly figures out that higher mammals are very much like us in the sense that they all have unique personalities, which results in different sets of hopes, fears and expectations. While all bears try to escape, Ahote was obviously very happy at the Wildlife Refuge.

    Those bears knew me the way your dog knows you. How else do you explain that both bears, who had gotten separated after their escape, ended up following us home individually through the woods. The brown phase black bear, Luvey, followed us for 4 miles, with no restraints, collars or leashes, and walked right into her enclosure. (How would you control a 250 lb bear anyway?) During this period, I emailed Joe Therrien of Special Licenses, asking for DEC recommendations for rebuilding the bear enclosure according to their specs. He didn’t even bother to reply, and I’ll be happy to provide a copy of my email to him.

    We certainly don’t blame the Refuge which adopted the bears, as they came, sedated the bears, helped us carry them to travel containers (for lions!), everything by the book, and brought them to their new home. Luvey is apparently adopting well.

    Another example of the individuality of animal personalities is Kayla the Eurasian Lynx, who was supposed to be flown to a Refuge in Oregon, but was so freaked out by the process, we had to rehome her temporarily with another rehabber. Alex and Hanna will be driving her to a cat rescue place in Florida in about a week, and hopefully she will survive the trip.

    As we mentioned previously, when Wendy was forced to rehome her raptors, we warned the regulators that the advanced age of about half of these raptors, along with the fact that they could not fly and were very adjusted to their homes at the Refuge, as well as their handlers, did not bode well for transferring them. Sure enough, half of them died, including a rough legged hawk, Swainson’s hawk, northern goshawk, kestrel, short eared owl and crow. Our animals all receive regular check ups from.the vet, and these raptors were all doing fine, until they were relocated.

    Many folks believe Wendy should have been more careful with her paperwork, and we agree. But at what point does the actual welfare of the animals become a factor in the bureaucrats’ decision-making process. We’ve seen that they don’t care about the economy, and they don’t care about the students. At what point do they make decisions that are in the interests of the citizens they serve?

    Which brings us to Kevin and Jackie Woodcock, who were nominated by the non-profit to take over the collect and possess licenses, so that none of the animals would have to be moved. The Woodcocks are naturalists and authors, experts in butterflies, bees and nature generally. Most importantly, they have no connection to Wendy and did not work at the Refuge when her violations occurred, and would be perfect candidates to run the Refuge for the non-profit.

    As part of the process of trying to bring the Refuge up to DEC standards, they redesigned and rebuilt all the mammal enclosures. This included building a 1,520 foot perimeter fence which ended once and for all, any critter escape from the Refuge grounds. We placed an electric fence in the bear enclosure, ending any attempts to dig out. We spent $200,000, of which $140,000 had to be borrowed from the bank. Problem solved for the DEC? Guess again!

    The DEC says their regulations are meant to protect the public and the animals in our care. The fact is that only one person has been killed by a black bear in New York in the last 150 years, and with the addition of the electric fence, there will be no more bear escapes. There has been no wolf escape since their new enclosure was built six years ago. So while the DEC claims to be have been worried about the animals in our care, we have never succeeded in causing the death of any of our animals, while the rehoming directives by the DEC have done exactly that.

    Attached is the UPS receipt that confirms that the DEC signed for and received the Woodcock’s application on Sept 22nd. The DEC’s own rules from their web site claims that the DEC must respond to all applications within 15 days of receipt, or explain why they can’t, and now, 6 weeks later, they still deny having received it! This is a constant pattern with the DEC. They sign for something, and then deny that they received it. You email them, and they can’t be bothered to answer. We have streams and streams of emails proving just that.

    While we’re all familiar with the glacial pace of government bureaucracies, this brings incompetence to a whole new level, unless it is a strategy of delay and obfuscate, that is, wait until the critters are all gone, which they are, making the collect and possess license a moot point until a new licensee is approved. Imagine if the people of New York could hold the DEC to the same level of expectation licensees are held to.

    It gets crazier. Lyme disease is a major health issue in New York, not at the level of COVID, but still a serious consideration for folks who spend time outdoors. For those new to how Lyme disease works, black legged ticks are the carriers, but not the source of the Borrelia Burgdorferi bacteria. The ticks pick the bacteria up from rodents, and then pass it on to you.

    The red fox is clearly our best defense against Lyme, because of the sheer volume of rodents they eat. Wouldn’t you think that the state would immediately ban the trapping of any predator that eats rodents, just as it is illegal to hunt birds of prey? Wrong again. The DEC not only encourages trapping, the cruelest and most inefficient form of hunting, as we have rehabbed eagles caught in fox traps, but they encourage trapping and even have a mentoring program for your young children!

  2. Vanessa B says

    Poor Ahote. :(:(:( that’s terrible, and frankly I’m gonna refrain from a lot of unkind words about the DEC’s statement as quoted. I would caution anyone from the DEC who reads this comment to remember that you’re public servants representing government. You’re the powerful, institutional party in this exchange. No one – not on the right or left – likes authoritarian, enforcement-obsessed government. I am less and less convinced that the DEC is remotely motivated by public safety or wellbeing in this case.

    Unrelated sidebar: I appreciate that it is noted here that some parties involved in all of this write for the Almanack. Jackie just had a nice article over the weekend, I believe.

  3. Boreas says

    Kayla the lynx did indeed make the trip to FL. I tried to post the YouTube Link here, but it did not get posted. If you want to see her in her temporary home, just search YT for “Max Canada Lynx meets Kayla E. Lynx”. She seems pretty comfortable. I don’t know if she is still there.

  4. Boreas says

    NYS/DEC can certainly show backbone when it wants to – but brains should be employed before backbone. Rehabbers and rehab facilities do not grow on trees. This activity is a labor of love, not simply a profession (which implies getting paid!). First, you have to find someone willing to work round the clock to be a volunteer rehabber, then they need a place to do it. The animals come to them for many reasons – some are emergencies, some are issues of neglect or the inability for others to care for the animals. We need MORE rehab and long-term care facilities, not fewer. I believe this issue could have been resolved in a more constructive way. Were NYS/DEC truly advocating for these and future animals, or simply enforcing laws? Who “won”??

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