Farewell to Two Friends -- Two Giants in the Field of Wildlife Rehabilitation

This has been a very sad week for me, personally, and for the wildlife rehabilitation community across North America. Within little more than 24 hours, I lost two of my good friends who were pioneers in the field of wildlife rescue and rehabilitation … indeed, two of our giants in wildlife care. Jay Holcomb, a founder and driving force behind the International Bird Rescue Center, one of the world’s premier oil-spill response organizations, died on Tuesday, June 10, 2014 at the age of 63. Len Soucy, the founder of New Jersey’s Raptor Trust, died on Wednesday, June 11, 2014 at the age of 82.

Jay Holcomb’s career spanned more than 40 years of service to wild creatures, and saw him play pivotal roles in some of the most infamous oil spills in history, including both the Exxon Valdez spill in Alaska in 1989, and the BP Oil Spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010.

In 1982, following more than a decade of individual efforts to care for injured and orphaned wildlife, Len Soucy established one of the earliest wildlife care organizations that specialized in the care and rehabilitation of birds of prey. After more than thirty years of wildlife care, the Raptor Trust has had a profound impact on techniques and tools used in the care of birds of prey.

With the loss of these two giants, the pool of “old timers”—those of us who have been active in wildlife rehabilitation for more than 30 years—diminishes significantly. Beyond the grieving for lost friends, and the unavoidable confrontation with our own mortality, the deaths of Jay Holcomb and Len Soucy serve as a reminder of just how much one person can accomplish in one lifetime, with the right amount of dedication and the right amount of stubborn perseverance. Certainly, there are uncounted thousands of wild animals who had both life and legacy as a direct or indirect result of the work of these two men and the organizations they established. But, more importantly, there is a legion of other wildlife care providers who were recruited, trained, and mentored by Jay and Len. These people continue to provide professional care to wildlife, across the United States and around the world. They continue to recruit, train, and mentor, as they were the beneficiaries of such nurture from Jay and Len.

Those of us left behind are motivated to keep fighting the good fight and doing all we can for wildlife … indeed, for the planet. None of us can know how much time we have left, so it is incumbent on each of us to do what we can, for as long as we can.

Farewell, my friends. Thank you for living the lives you lived. Thank you for what you leave behind.

--Ed Clark, President of Wildlife Center of Virginia

Jay Holcomb: Biography of Jay Holcomb
Len Soucy: Biography of Len Souci