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Beyond Bambi: Paramus Forum Deals With Suburban Wildlife

Life in suburbia includes lots of encounters with wildlife. Photo Credit: Courtesy of Bill Ash
Dee Garbowski, president and founder of Wildlife Freedom in Wanaque. Photo Credit: Lorraine Ash
Marianne Vella, director of the Bergen County Zoological Park in Paramus. Photo Credit: Lorraine Ash
Daneen Aromando, faculty member in the Veterinary Technology Program at Bergen Community College in Paramus. Photo Credit: Lorraine Ash

PARAMUS, N.J. — If you see a deer in the wild with a broken leg, just let it be, a Wanaque wildlife rehabilitator told a crowd of animal lovers at Bergen Community College (BCC) in Paramus on Monday.

“Don’t call anybody because they can survive wonderfully on three legs,” said Dee Garbowski, president and founder of Wildlife Freedom, Inc.

“I had a buck who lived near my property for nine years and he had three legs,” she added. “For all that time, he survived perfectly fine. It’s not necessary to shoot them or put them down.”

The question was one of many asked of a panel of experts featured at “Wildlife in Suburbia,” one in a series of forums at the college addressing life in the suburbs.

The project is the brainchild of professor Phil Dolce, who chairs the BCC Suburban Studies Group.

An audience of some 50 people asked questions about feeding feral cats, where to find a rehabilitator , the role of zoos, the diet of deer, the effect of hunts, and more.

All reflected typical human-animal encounters and issues in the ’burbs.

In addition to Garbowski, panelists included Marianne Vella, director of the Bergen County Zoological Park in Paramus ; Daneen Aromando, a faculty member in the college’s Veterinary Technology Program ; and Shamar Gill, president of the BCC Student Activities Board.

Aromando addressed a question about whether it’s OK to feed feral cats for the purpose of controlling the rodent population around a home.

“It’s a great idea as long as you take the cats in and spay and neuter them,” she said. “But they will be feeding on rodents that will probably have disease of some sort, whether it’s fleas or intestinal problems.”

Nevertheless, Aromando added, people have used this method on farms for years.

According to Vella, a big question zoos face these days is what are we going to save?

“We can’t save everything,” she said.

But they can get involved in efforts beyond themselves. For instance, there are fewer than 100 Sumatran rhinos left on the planet.

“We don’t have one at our zoo,” Vella said. “We do things on a smaller scale, but we try to raise awareness. We do a bowling for Rhinos event. We raise $6,000 a year and send it to a conservation reserve in Africa that actually takes care of a natural reserve for the rhinos.”

When it comes to habitat, panelists said, people are sometimes surprised to learn 30 percent of New Jersey is considered green space. Such lands have grown in the past 50 years, according to Aromando.

In part, she said, that’s due in part to the generosity of individuals and families who decided to bequeath their land to the state after their deaths.

Past events run by the Suburban Studies Group this year addressed race and police and emergency response.

“We’re a suburban nation – the first in the world,” Dolce said.

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