The Town of Brookhaven in Suffolk County, on Long Island, New York, is home to the wonderful Brookhaven Ecology Site, Park & Animal Preserve, which is free for everyone. Included in the center is a large zoo with some surprising animal residents. All of the wild and farm animals in the preserve were brought in injured and nursed back to health, or are otherwise non-releasable into the wild.
You can view an American buffalo, white-tailed deer, wild mustangs, American black bears and even some exotic animals like the coatimundi and the binturong from Asia, as well as birds like emus, red-tailed hawks, turkey vultures, chickens, wild turkeys and more.
While admission is free, there is also a fee per car, per day to park at the center. This applies to both nonresidents and residents of the Town of Brookhaven. If you are a town resident, you can buy a yearly pass per car. And if you're a senior, veteran or handicapped resident, the yearly pass is discounted.
There is also a fee for the self-guided, group and behind-the-scenes tours at the center. If you'd like to help keep the center alive, you might want to make a donation; the center relies entirely on donations to a nonprofit organization, the Brookhaven Wildlife Center, for the resident animals' food and medical care.
In addition to the zoo, there is a park featuring a playground, a pool complex, greenhouses, a picnic area, and an exercise trail. There is also finished compost at the center, from leaves provided by residents, and wood chips. Brookhaven residents with an ID can help themselves to compost and wood chips for their gardens.
Zoo hours change with the seasons. For up-to-date information on hours, check the center's website. It is open seven days a week during the summer. In the spring and fall, educational classes are held in the Information Center.
Nubian Goats at the Center
As you enter the preserve, home to more than 100 animals, you'll see the Nubian goats. These friendly animals have long, floppy ears and make good pets. Visitors can purchase special food to hand-feed the goats. These are the only animals at the center that the public is allowed to feed. Refrain from feeding them anything but the designated feed; other food might do them harm. Guests are also asked not to feed any other animals at the center.
These two bald eagles (also called American eagles) share a large, sunny enclosure. Victoria, who has been at the center since 2004, was unfortunately hit by a car on a highway in New Jersey and sustained a head and wing injury. As a result, she cannot fly well and was brought to the center so that she could live out her life in comfort and safety.
These majestic animals, the symbol of the United States, live throughout most of the country. In case you were wondering, bald eagles are not bald. They have white feathers on their heads, which may make them look bald.
Among the other birds that abound in the preserve, there are chickens, a great horned owl, Florida sandhill cranes, American kestrels and much more.
American Black Bears
Two American black bears share an enclosure, which features a small body of water where they can cool off on hot summer days. Pooh, the male, is exceptionally large at 809 pounds and is 9 feet tall. The average male American black bear weighs 130 to 550 pounds. Honey, the female bear at the center, is a mere 400 pounds and measures 5 feet tall.
These species of bear are found in North America, and there are an estimated 600,000 living in the area. Their short, rounded claws are non-retractable and give them the ability to scale trees.
Perhaps the most famous resident of the zoo is the groundhog, Holtsville Hal. Every February 2, the furry weather predictor comes out of his burrow to let us know whether we'll have a long or short wait before winter ends.
Hal has a Long Island competitor in Melville Mel. In one of New York City's boroughs, Staten Island Chuck vies for attention on Groundhog Day with the über-celebrity of the groundhog world, Punxsutawney Phil.