By: Gary Simeone
It is her love of animals that brought Long Valley resident, Cindy Zeller, to her new position as a part-time Animal Control Officer in Mount Olive Township. In her new position, she will be on call during the week and weekends to answer animal related calls after normal Township business hours.
“I have been informed by my superiors that the majority of the afterhours calls I’ll be receiving will be wildlife related, with other calls including but not limited to dogs and other animals running at large,” said Zeller, a West Morris Central High School graduate.
Zeller said that working with animals has been a calling of sorts and that she has always been drawn to animals in many aspects of her life.
” I always find myself seizing any opportunity that arises where I am able to interact with animals. I have worked extensively with horses and have experience with many different breeds and equine disciplines. In the past few years, I have spent time as a dedicated hands-on volunteer at several different wildlife refuges including Antler Ridge in Newton, Woodlands wildlife Refuge in Pittstown, and most recently The Last Resort Wildlife Refuge where I am presently still volunteering.”
She added that she has had many adventures with the natural world, including swimming with stingrays and with beluga whales. She also has “hung out” with wolves, wolf-hybrids, tigers, monkeys, and even rescued a large angry seagull with her husband while on vacation.
Currently she is rehabilitating a small amount of wildlife in her home under the permit and supervision of a licensed wildlife rehabilitator.
Zeller said that her most favorite thing about being an animal control officer is being able to help animals and people in distress.
“I truly enjoy being that person that someone can call to help them when they find an animal that needs help or to be rescued,” said Zeller. “I love being able to rescue an animal in distress whether it’s a domestic or wild situation, and get it the help and assistance it needs to heal.”
She says that her least favorite thing about her new position is seeing animals being abused by their owners or caretakers.
“Cruelty cases are very difficult, but I try to concentrate on helping the animal and sometimes the people who are involved. I hate seeing animals in pain and suffering. Sometimes they don’t understand you are trying to help them but I do my best to try and not cause any more pain, fear, or discomfort to them while trying to help. I don’t think any of us like to see the suffering, whether its animals or human beings. To be able to rescue animals in distress and get them the help they need, and see them released back into the wild is an amazing feeling.”
As far as interesting or weird occurrences that happened to her while she was out in the field, Zeller said that there have been a few memorable ones. One that stands out most in her mind was a badly burned abandoned building where rescuers found a community of bats that were in bad condition.
“When the fire department arrived on scene and began fighting the fire, there were bats flying out of this building in mass amounts. Many of the bats were very badly burned and did not survive. After carefully combing around the building and fire scene, I managed to find six bats that were still alive and was able to transport them to a bat rehabilitator, where they could get the emergency care and rehab they desperately needed. I found out later those five of the six bats had survived and were successfully able to be rehabbed and released. back into the wild.”
Another story revolved around a mother deer and her baby fawn that was caught underneath a car.
“I got a call late one night from a friend who lives on a very busy road. She reported to have seen a deer run across the road by her house and then a tiny baby fawn stumbling behind her shortly afterwards. She told me the baby had trouble keeping up with the mom and skidded across the road. The fawn became separated and was caught under a car in a nearby driveway. I was able to crawl under the car and free the baby fawn with the goal in mind of reuniting it with its momma. Unfortunately, I was unable to safely do so but the baby was eventually freed and taken to a wildlife refuge where she was successfully rehabbed and eventually released back to the wild.”
One of her favorite stories is centered around two kittens who were found in very rough shape inside of a horse stall in a barn.
“I was working at a horse farm several years ago and there were multiple barns and buildings on the property. One day while working in one of the smaller barns, two tiny kittens were discovered by the gentlemen cleaning the stalls. He showed them to me and I figured that the mom may have been scared off.”
She said the next day when she arrived at the farm, the first thing she did was go check on the kittens.
“I was sad to find they were not there. The gentleman who found them said they moved them to one of the hay bales so they could work in the area. I found them cold and hungry with their eyes still closed and bits of the umbilical cord still attached. I ended up taking them home and did my best to warm them up and get them to eat something. I did not expect them to survive as they were so tiny and in rough shape. For the first few days it was pretty much touch and go. I was happy when I began to see them thriving. Watching them grow and turning into happy active kittens was truly amazing.”