Refuge collaborators plan to reopen facility this spring
By Gwendolyn Craig
Wendy Hall, a wildlife rehabilitator who nursed numerous injured birds and animals across the North Country, died Sunday night, according to her friends and family.
Hall, 70, was the co-owner of the Adirondack Wildlife Refuge in Wilmington with her husband Stephen Hall. Stephen Hall, 74, shared on the Adirondack Wildlife Refuge’s Facebook page that his wife died in home hospice after suffering from an inoperable sarcoma. He has disclosed that she has been dealing with cancer for months.
“A perennial volunteer, Wendy was a nurse, well known for her dedication to helping people and wildlife,” Stephen Hall wrote. “At various times a volunteer ambulance lieutenant, massage therapist, pastel and stained-glass artist, an expert Scrabble player, Wendy was best known as a wildlife rehabilitator, who not only helped train aspiring rehabilitators, but also taught many folks about wildlife and their roles in nature.”
Over the more than 20 years the Halls lived in Wilmington, Wendy became well-known for her work across the Adirondack region. Wendy Hall was one of several volunteers who ran the North Country Wild Care hotline, answering questions or getting someone in touch with a rehabber. She also staffed AWR’s own rehab hotline. She took her eagles and owls on tour to schools across the North Country, festivals and events, educating young and old about wildlife, climate change and the environment.
Upper Jay resident and Adirondack Explorer contributor Kevin MacKenzie and his late wife, Deb, worked with Wendy and the refuge for the past two decades photographing, and helping with the animals.
“Her advocacy for the environment and the animals was inspiring from the onset. You could see that it was her passion. She quickly became family, not just a close friend. It’s difficult to describe how much of a loss this is. I’ll miss having her down the road, her friendship, sense of humor, and learning under her wing,” he said.
Ken Rimany, partner with Adirondack Wild, recalled meeting a beaver kit that Wendy was rehabilitating. “That one amazing experience bonded us immediately and launched our special friendship and is one that I’ve never forgotten and will treasure forever,” he said in this post on the Adirondack Almanack.
As the sole state and federal licensed rehabber at the refuge, Wendy Hall ran into difficulties with regulators recently from violations wracked up over multiple years.
Jackie Woodcock of Newton Falls worked closely with Wendy Hall on various projects at the refuge over the past three and a half years. She and her husband, Kevin Woodcock, rebuilt the refuge’s animal enclosures, created a butterfly house and rehabbed a dome home on the property.
“Truly the absence of Wendy’s light makes this world feel so much colder. She coached us for months as she sat in her bed, to push forward, to never surrender to the darkness. It was easy to give her our word that we would stand strong in her absence, but we never realized just how hard it would be until now,” Jackie Woodcock wrote in an email. “One of the hardest lessons in life is letting go. Whether it’s guilt, anger, love or loss, change is never easy. We fight to hold on and we fight to let go.”
The Woodcocks plan to take on management of the refuge as it transitions to housing livestock and non-DEC-regulated wildlife.
The couple plans to open the refuge for educational programming sometime in the spring, although the DEC has denied their animal license application. Among its reasons for denial, the DEC said the Woodcocks live far away from the refuge and do not have any experience with wildlife and dangerous animals. It also noted the Halls reside on the property and remain involved.
The Woodcocks said they do not believe the DEC gave them a fair chance, and they would have provided more information if the DEC had asked.
Records show both the Halls and their staff made false statements to regulators about animal escapes and the number of reported birds. The refuge had also housed non-releasable, educational birds with rehabbed birds intended for release.
The state Department of Environmental Conservation and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service denied Wendy’s various license renewals. After rehoming the nearly 20 birds under Wendy’s federal permit, in the summer of 2021, the Halls had to find new homes for their DEC-regulated wildlife including their two bears and two wolves. The refuge has been closed to the public since the summer.
She is survived by Stephen Hall, their four children and their children’s families. According to Stephen Hall, a celebration of Wendy’s life will take place this spring.
Adirondack Explorer digital editor Melissa Hart also contributed to this report.