DELEVAN, NY - Life can be tough for small animal sanctuaries. The high cost of feeding and caring for animals can be overwhelming in itself, but throw in a cruel twist of weather and the odds can seem insurmountable.
Unfortunately, that's just what happened this winter at Gooseneck Hill Waterfowl Sanctuary in Delevan. Owner Rosemary Miner describes one of the most daunting tasks this winter. "Chopping ice, chopping ice, and more chopping," she lamented.
Milt Miner, the sanctuary's other owner, says it's been very bad. "It's the worst winter we've had in 32 years … we have ice that's two, three feet thick down there."
Aside from owners Milt and Rosemary Miner, Gooseneck Hill employs only one person. All three have been busy keeping birds warm and water flowing, says Milt. "We have to keep the water open, we have our pumps going, we have four half-horsepower pumps going, that's two-and-a-half horsepower, going constantly, 24/7."
Adds Rosemary: "They go through a ton of food every other week, and the food isn't cheap anymore. Everything goes up, the electric's enough to kill you. People think of sticker shock … how would you like to open up a bill for one month for $1,300?"
The sanctuary lost a number of its 600 birds to the harsh winter. Perhaps the most heartbreaking loss was that of Charlie, their 38-year-old male whistler swan. He is one half of a long-mated pair.
"His mate is here, and it's horrible to see this, she mourns," Rosemary said, describing the swan's grief. "It's been two months now, and she goes in the barn every single night, and she sleeps right where he slept with her .... it's sad."
But Gooseneck Hill is no stranger to adversity. In August of 2009 they fell prey to the torrential rain and flooding that tore through parts of Western New York. Although they sustained much damage, Milt tells 2 The Outdoors they persevered through that trial and feel confident they will do so again.
"We get 'er done, in other words. It's just a matter of more time and more effort on our part. You've just got to hang in there from day to day and hope it will get better."
Rosemary agrees. "There's always another day, you know, there's always a better day after something happens, so ... it'll get better."
Gooseneck Hill is a non-profit organization and public support is critical in helping them care for the birds. You can help by attending their upcoming fundraiser, "Taste of the Southtowns," happening Sunday March 30, from 11:30 to 5 p.m. in St. Aloysius Hall in Springville.
For more information visit the Gooseneck Hill website.