New York City has a population around 8.5 million people. The animal population is proportional to the city’s living population. There are over 600 species of animals living in New York City, not including the human variety. The different kinds of wildlife in the city include creatures such as: pigeons, rats, opossums and more. One human in New York City named Adair Moran runs Urban Utopia Wildlife (UUW), a non-profit urban wildlife rehabilitation center. “Our mission,” she says, “is helping humans and animals coexist peacefully.” That means treating opossums with care, squirrels with kindness, and rats with magnanimity.
“When a member of the public finds – say, a cute little baby squirrel on the sidewalk, they naturally want to help,” Moran says. “If wildlife rehab is not available to the public, often untrained people will try and raise the wild baby animal themselves, and this is bad news for both the human and the animal.” Thankfully, Moran and her team of volunteers are eager to help.
UUW does not have a facility. They are not affiliated with the government in any way, so they cannot facilitate the pickup of any animal. What they can do; is support and provide funding, education, and supplies to New York City-based rehabbers who do wildlife rehabilitation in their homes. As they work with wildlife professionals and the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation, UUW provides information and working protocols to help save injured or sick urban wildlife. As the organization grows, they provide career opportunities for wildlife and veterinary professionals, all while training new rehabbers.
Moran is a stunt double for films and TV shows. She’s done live shows such as: Marvel Universe and Jurassic World Live. When she’s not combating velociraptors or Thanos, she’s got a knack for finding injured or orphaned animals and rehabbing them. Her home base is East Harlem. She runs the organization with the other UUW board of directors: Cathy Wolfe, Christopher Joya, and Jenny Topolski.
Moran is a New York State licensed rehabilitator and she often sees a lot of squirrels in the city. Wander through Central Park and you’ll find 2,373 squirrels. That number, anyway, comes from a 2018 Squirrel Census. Hundreds of volunteers from the Explorer Club, the NYU Department of Environmental Studies, Macaulay Honors College, the Central Park Conservancy, and the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation, brought this statistic to life
Those 2,373 squirrels also have babies. The babies sometimes get separated from their mothers. Moran is proud of the work the organization does to help reunite those babies with their mothers. One of the ways that UUW helps in reuniting the squirrels is through their YouTube channel. The UUW YouTube channel provides step-by-step instructions on coordinating a reunion of baby and mother. “When a baby squirrel is found on the ground, if the mother is alerted to the baby’s location, she’ll oftentimes take the baby back to her nest,” she says. The YouTube channel has downloadable sound files of baby squirrel cries which can be used to alert mothers to their wayward baby’s whereabouts. “It’s hard to pinpoint exactly how many squirrels we’ve saved, but we have heard from many people who have had success making squirrel reunions.” Very pleased with the results, Moran stated “I want to help more animals and better serve our communities.”
They’ve helped squirrels, rabbits, opossums, and other animals. “We had a large adult opossum who came to us when someone found it bagged up in a garbage bag in Queens.” Sometimes people treat animals cruelly and opossums are an oft-misunderstood creature, with their beady eyes, sharp teeth, and bloated rat-like quality, slinking around New York City neighborhoods at night.
Someone found the bag on the curb and brought it to Moran. “We weren’t sure if she’d make it, she was so weak and dehydrated,” she recalls. UUW gave it the care it needed until it regained its strength. Moran released it back, per local law, to Queens. “It was really amazing to see her return to the wild so healthy after she arrived in such bad shape.”
The organization often gets phone calls. “I saw a groundhog at the park. What should I do?” or “There’s an opossum in the backyard. Can you come get it?” Moran likes these kinds of calls. They’re teachable moment where she can share her love of animals.
“I really enjoy sharing with people that these animals are in New York City because it’s their home too,” she says. “By allowing them the space to exist we make our city a more awesome place for everyone.”