The New England Wildlife Center will receive $200,000 for animal care and education

WEYMOUTH — Katrina Bergman said it was clear at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic that the New England Wildlife Center should pivot in its mission to serve both animals and people.

The non-profit quickly converted its education vans into rescue vans so they could continue caring for sick, injured or orphaned animals without forcing people to take them to the center.

Educational programs and an animal rehabilitation course usually offered in local classrooms and at the center have moved online only.

Yet somehow, Bergman said, the center served even more people and animals than ever before.

“We’ve doubled our education and care footprint during COVID,” said Bergman, the nonprofit’s chief executive, on Monday.

Ron Amidon, the state Department of Fish and Game Commissioner, State Senator Patrick O’Connor and State Representative James Murphy visited the Weymouth Center on Monday to celebrate the work done over the two last years.

The center is set to receive $100,000 from the state to help with animal care and $100,000 in federal money from the American Rescue Plan Act for its education and community service programs.

“It’s so amazing and it’s an acknowledgment of the work we do for animals and humans,” Bergman said, noting that the organization has received small state grants in the past, but never close. of $200,000. “This money will be incredibly useful.”

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“This is a watershed moment as it recognizes and supports the entire mission of the New England Wildlife Center. Are we a sanctuary? No. Are we a community center? No. Are we a wildlife hospital? No. Are we us an education center? No. We all are,” she said.

The non-profit New England Wildlife Center is a community enterprise started by a group of South Shore residents more than 30 years ago to care for sick, injured and orphaned wildlife. With limited public funding, the center relies on volunteers and the generosity of animal lovers to help wildlife, provide student programs and serve the community. The non-profit organization also operates the Cape Wildlife Center.

Greg Mertz, director of medical and educational programs at the New England Wildlife Center, inspects an eye of a large snapping turtle Monday, August 23, 2021.

From providing job training for inmates, to elementary and middle school science education programs, to hosting Narcotics Anonymous meetings and open mic nights, the wildlife center strives to be a welcoming place for everyone, Bergman said.

The organization needs to raise $2.3 million a year, and Bergman said he lost about $300,000 during the pandemic due to canceled fundraisers and other money-making services.

O’Connor and Murphy spoke of the important role the New England Wildlife Center plays in Weymouth and throughout the South Shore.

New England Wildlife Center CEO Katrina Bergman kicks off a Facebook Live session with a story for patrons of the "Night of a Thousand Faces" Friday, October 23, 2020.

“It’s extremely important for us to make sure that we connect state resources to this mission and continue to make it grow and thrive,” O’Connor said.

Amidon, of the Department of Fish and Game, said his office is dedicated to the care and control of wildlife, but ensuring that habitats are maintained and animal populations are healthy.

“It’s really nice to partner with the staff at the New England Wildlife Center to do the things that we can’t do,” he said. “It’s a great partnership.”

Zak Mertz, executive director of the center’s Cape Town branch, and veterinarian Priya Patel have worked with state and federal agencies in response to H5N1, a highly pathogenic avian flu.

The virus has increased in the United States in recent weeks, killing wild birds and farmed poultry.

Mertz said it was important to spread awareness about the virus and precautions as more people raise backyard chickens and waterfowl. o human cases of avian influenza have been detected in the country.

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Benjamin M. Yerger