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Cayuga Nature Center is rehoming its animals due to funding problems

Owl in enclosure
The Cayuga Nature Center's great horned owl, "Oakley".

The Cayuga Nature Center is ending its live animal program due to financial issues.

The center sits on 100 acres of land in Ithaca overlooking Cayuga Lake and houses 70 individual animals that they call animal ambassadors. Most of the animals are native to the region and the menagerie includes foxes, owls, snakes, toads, possums and more.

The move comes after millions of dollars in philanthropic gifts to the nature center’s parent organization, the Paleontological Research Institution, were delayed, officials stated in last week’s press release.

“This decision comes after careful consideration of various factors, including the well-being and long-term sustainability of the animals under CNC’s care amid the current financial hardship of the Paleontological Research Institution (PRI), CNC’s parent organization,” the center announced.

Fox in enclosure
The Cayuga Nature Center's red fox, "Daisy".

Chris Wolfe, the aquatic animals manager at the nature center, said the funding was necessary for the animals’ expensive upkeep.

“Without the consistency of the gifts, it's not feasible to continue to have the animals for their safety and health,” he said.

The move is the best option for the animals and will ensure their quality of life, Wolfe said.

“We're making sure that they're at least getting the same level of care that we have been giving them,” Wolfe said. “And, in a couple of instances, we're trying to get them better setups and enclosures than we were currently able to give them.”

The animals will go to wildlife sanctuaries, zoos, other nature centers, and to the homes of volunteers and community members.

“Our gopher snake is coming home with me,” Wolfe told WSKG.

The Cayuga Nature Center is aiming to rehome their animal ambassadors before the end of March. Some animals have already left the center.

Their new homes will be tracked on the Paleontological Research Institute’s website.

Community members can continue to support the animals’ care as they wait to be rehomed, Wolfe said.

“We still have the vast majority of them,” he said. “And so any donations will help to keep feeding them and housing them while we work to transition them out.”

Wolfe told WSKG there has been an emotional response over the loss of the animal ambassadors.

“From what I've seen, a lot of the community is not happy about it. But they also realize that it's what's best for the animals at the moment,” he said.

The Cayuga Nature Center’s educational programming will continue throughout the rest of the year and its grounds will remain open to the public.

The Cayuga Nature Center is an underwriter for WSKG.