EAST HAMPTON — For years, those hoping to rescue an animal hurt or stranded on the side of an East End road knew that a phone call to Wildlife Rescue of East Hampton would send founder Dell Cullum to the scene, day or night, no matter the weather.
But Cullum had big news to announce recently: He and his “righthand man” Robin Conklin will be doing rescues through Labor Day, but from that point forward, the mission of WROEH will shift to education as he and his wife Dee move to their new home in Massachusetts.
WROEH has recently finalized the approval to switch its non-for-profit 501c3 mission and priority from physical rescues to education, training, and a 24/7 wildlife information and advice hotline, 844-SAV-WILD, Cullum said.
He is also working on a wildlife rescue training video that will cover all aspects of the field, and it will be available for free to anyone who wishes to get involved, he said.
Cullum, who has worked in animal rescue and transport for 33 years in six states, is hoping to share his knowledge on a wider campus nationwide.
“WROEH is really looking forward to sharing this with folks around the community and the country,” he said.
He added: “And if you’ve heard the rumors of us moving, they are true. Dee and I are leaving the Hamptons and moving to a very special place in Hardwick, MA. There, we will be getting involved with some very interesting wildlife projects that will make a difference,” he said.
WROEH will also be acquiring a few new wildlife ambassadors as Cullums looks to book visits in schools and events around the country, with Athena, his blind screech owl, by his side.
“We will absolutely continue to visit all the local schools here on the East End of Long Island whenever we are called, and during the school year. I’m not disappearing completely, just taking the show to a new and more beneficial level,” he said. “Educating our youth ensures the next generations will have the knowledge of understanding wildlife better and expressing compassion easier, rather than focusing on eliminating them or seeing our wildlife as a nuisance.”
Sadly, Cullum believes, wildlife has only acclimated to what humans have burdened them with.
“Ironically, everything that makes them a nuisance, we created and forced them into. Humans are the only species that can’t seem to live in harmony with other living things. Hell, we can’t even respect each other anymore. I figure our only hope is in the future of our youth, so I’m making it my life’s mission to get them on the proper and empathetic path,” Cullum said.
Cullum thanked everyone who supported and donated to WROEH.
In addition, he said, a few months ago, an ardent supporter of WROEH passed away and left the group funds in her will that will help to facilitate the shift in focus to imparting critical knowledge on a more global canvas.
“Now we can share this vital education with children around the country, and that’s exactly what Dee and I are going to do,” Cullum said.
The organization’s name will not change, and an office will remain in East Hampton, Cullum said; the hot line, 844-SAV-WILD and website will also remain in place.
Cullum said he will continue to be available to both East Hampton town and village for remediation projects; he will also be available 24/7 on the hot line to answer any wildlife-related inquiries, to give information or advice, “no matter where I am,” he said.
“And best of all, I’ve selected a small group of special volunteers that will continue to have my back while I’m away. I arranged this because I will continue to manage the wildlife for the Village of East Hampton, which has also put me in charge of the wildlife at the Village Nature Trail. That alone will keep my eyes and ears alert right here at home. If the village needs me for a wildlife-related issue, I’m but a few hours away and always available to come back and execute my wildlife responsibilities here at home,” he said.
Cullum said he will also continue to write books, create informational films “and do whatever I need to do, to protect our wildlife.”
AS WROEH transitions to a complete education and training resource, rather than doing physical rescues, Cullum will remain focused on visiting schools, attending events and giving lectures about the importance of wildlife, the importance of understanding wildlife — and the necessity of compassion toward wildlife,he said.
“I will do this with my wildlife ambassadors like Athena and other wildlife that I will be caring for, that due to their injuries will not be able to be released back into the wild,” he said.
The hotline will operate as a national and international resource for wildlife information, identification, and advice, particularly in regard to nuisance wildlife management, prevention, and care, Cullum said.
Describing his next chapter, Cullum said: “My move has also uncovered a wonderful opportunity for my continued work. I purchased a home that sits on a lake with an amazing abundance of wildlife. The lake has sustained very little human impact and a group has been formed to keep it that way. I’ve already thrown my hat into the ring and look forward to becoming a beneficial member of the organization.”
That group, he said, is presently active removing invasive plants from the water, while protecting some rare and beautiful plants — wild orchids, for one — and the surrounding wildlife.
“This is a project that will benefit and better the water body,” he said. “This is a project that willl maintain a natural and perfect balance by the hands of man, rather than become another location for man to destroy. This precious ecosystem will be saved.”
As he heads off into his future of caring for scores of new creatures and educating others to do the same, Cullum offered parting words of wisdom: “Wildlife matters.”