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Giving her time to animals in need: Meet Bernadette Clabeaux, local wildlife rehabilitator

Western New York resident Bernadette Clabeaux always knew she had a connection with nature’s best friends.

Western New York resident Bernadette Clabeaux always knew she had a connection with nature’s best friends.

“I’ve been helping wildlife my whole life and I started volunteering to help wildlife when I was only 16-years-old,” said Clabeaux.

Now a licensed wildlife rehabilitator volunteering at the Erie County SPCA, Clabeaux is able to help wounded and malnourished animals who can’t help themselves.

“It’s such an honor and so rewarding to volunteer at the SPCA,” said Clabeaux. “It’s just a feeling that you’re contributing back to the world and to the environment.”

According to Clabeaux, one hundred wildlife species and nearly 3,000 animals were rehabilitated back into the wild at the Erie County SPCA last year. As a rehabilitator, Clabeaux does everything from tube feed baby birds, distribute medication, assist with wing wraps and so much more. When she’s not volunteering, Clabeaux is a full-time professor at Medaille College where she teaches ornithology, which is the study of birds.

“I enjoy educating the public because once people learn how important each species is to the environment, they are more likely to help and rescue wildlife themselves and that will ensure that the wildlife we see now will be around for future generations, so they don’t go extinct and disappear,” said Clabeaux.

So what types of wildlife has Clabeaux and her fellow volunteers helped to rehabilitate and set back into the wild? Pigeons, wood ducks, cottontail rabbits, sparrows, squirrels, and a great horned owl are just some to name a few.

“I was able to release the great horned owl with the director, Barbara, and Dr. Karen Moran, and we did a release that was just extraordinary because we had been taking care of the animal for months and to watch it fly back to its natural habitat was amazing,” said Clabeaux.

But Clabeaux says you don’t have to be a licensed wildlife rehabilitator to help animals in need. She encourages people to call the wildlife department at 629-3528 if you wish to volunteer or donate to the cause.

And if you happen to see a wounded animal, the best way you can help is by calling the SPCA directly. Wildlife rehabilitators will then give you instructions over the phone on how to handle the situation until they arrive. Clabeaux says she truly admires her fellow volunteers and couldn’t picture herself working with a better team of people.

“They are a group of extraordinary people with the same heart and passion to rescue, rehabilitate and release,” said Clabeaux.

For more information on the Erie County SPCA Wildlife Department, visit

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