Digging His Free Ride from Florida to Buffalo,
STEFON DIGGUANA Touches Down at the SPCA Serving Erie County

October 28, 2022
By:  SPCA Chief Communications Officer Gina Lattuca

UPDATE, November 4 — Stefon Digguana officially has a Buffalo home! He’s the newest member of the family at Nickel City Reptiles and Exotics! New dad and Nickel City Reptiles and Exotics Owner Jeff Musial says on Facebook that Stefon has found his “forever home!” Those are our favorite words! Thanks, Jeff, and Stefon, we’ll miss you but we know you’ll love watching many years’ worth of Buffalo Bills games with the Nickel City crew! Full story below!

Getting on the field at Highmark Stadium can be tricky, but one iguana found a way to score.

This week, an unmarked NBC Sunday Night Football “follow truck” carrying broadcast equipment made its way from Florida to Buffalo in preparation for the Buffalo Bills’ game against the Green Bay Packers Sunday evening.

According to Diana Solomon, production coordinator at NBC Sports, “Our driver, Christian, was unloading the truck this afternoon, bringing boxes and other items to the [Highmark Stadium] field. As he lifted wires and cables out of one of the boxes, there underneath everything, at the bottom of the box, was this iguana!”

Solomon said the iguana was very still, and they weren’t sure if he was alive.

“We placed the iguana in a clear, plastic container, put hand warmers on him, and wrapped him up in towels,” Solomon added. “It wasn’t long before he ’woke up’ and started to move.”

At that point, unsure what to do with the lizard, Solomon contacted the Wildlife Department at the SPCA Serving Erie County.

“The iguana appears to be quite young, and he’s obviously wild, invasive to the Florida region,” says SPCA Wildlife Director Barbara Haney. “That limits our ability to send him back. He appears to be malnourished and dehydrated, so we’ll set him up here in a cage and hopefully he’ll relax, eat, and drink. Then he’ll see a local exotics veterinarian on Tuesday.”

Why are green iguanas illegal in Florida? >>

If cleared medically, wildlife representatives at the SPCA are hoping to place him with a reptile rescue/organization. If one cannot be located, the SPCA will attempt to find an experienced iguana owner who would be comfortable working with a young iguana not yet used to being handled. “Placement with a proper rescue or reptile center would be ideal, but if we cannot locate one that will accept him, it will be important to find an experienced someone,” Haney said. “Due to the special circumstances surrounding this reptile, the fact that he was wild-bred, and his acquisition, the best chance of a successful outcome will be with a patient handler who knows how to work with this iguana and provide the best life possible for him.”

The iguana’s new name? Courtesy of SPCA Animal Care Manager Leigh Ann Abbey, the iguana is now called STEFON DIGGUANA, after Buffalo Bills Wide Receiver Stefon Diggs!

Experienced iguana owners who may be interested in giving Stefon Digguana a new home can email the SPCA at…what else…Digguana@yourspca.org!

UPDATE, October 29 — Watching the game tomorrow night? Look for an appearance by the newest and most attractive social media darling, the one and only Stefon Digguana! NBC Sports representatives were at the SPCA Serving Erie County, NY this afternoon filming Stefon for his close-up! As you see, Stefon posed nicely for the camera!

See this story on NBC’s WGRZ-TV >>

See this story on Newsradio 930 WBEN >>

WILDLIFE CONSERVATION is the conversation…in our HUMANE HABITAT series!

The SPCA Serving Erie County’s Humane Habitat program addresses the need to decrease negative interactions between humans and wildlife and promotes kindness and compassion in the spaces that we share with wildlife.

Our vision is to create a community where all animals are treated with compassion and respect. In a series of six classes – three in the fall of 2022 and three in the spring of 2023 – members of the SPCA’s Wildlife Department and associates from the Citizen Coalition for Wildlife and Environment will share ways to make participants’ yard, space, school, or other outdoor area more humane and wildlife-friendly.

After attending the classes, participants will qualify to have their space deemed a Certified Humane Habitat and will receive a sign to display in their Humane Habitat. Participants will have an opportunity to invite a member of the SPCA’s Wildlife Department to come out to their property and see the space and offer suggestions.

By supporting this program and having a space certified as a Humane Habitat, participants can feel good about creating kind spaces and helping to teach about living compatibly with nature and animals!

Fall classes will take place via Zoom on Thursday evenings from 6:30 to 8:00. (Dates for the spring classes will be announced in 2023.) Classes are $20 each; register for one class or all classes! Pay $120 for both the fall and spring series and receive your yard sign!

Class 1: Thursday, Oct. 20
Why are Humane Habitats important spaces? Participants will learn about the risks that wildlife (and humanity) face.

Class 2: Thursday, Oct. 27
What is a Humane Habitat? What have you done? What are you doing? Nicole and Dave, representatives from Citizen Coalition for Wildlife and Environment, will lead tonight’s program.

Class 3: Thursday, Nov. 3
How can you start and continue your work in your designated outdoor space? How is the SPCA designating Humane Habitats?

For more information and to register, please send an email to the Wildlife Department Director Barb Haney at BarbH@yourspca.org.

SPCA Cares For, Returns Diamondback Terrapins to Maryland; Turtles Stolen By Tourists

August 11, 2022
By: Meg Walburn Viviano, Chesapeake Bay Magazine

Courtesy of Chesapeake Bay Magazine/Sandi Smith, Maryland Coastal Bays Program)

There’s a happy ending to a disheartening wildlife incident in Ocean City, Md.

Earlier this summer, visitors from Buffalo, N.Y. apparently collected two diamondback terrapins in Ocean City and brought them back to Buffalo. The turtles were confiscated by the SPCA in Erie County, N.Y. New York’s Department of Environmental Conservation reached out to Maryland’s Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to make them aware of the turtles.

Read the full story here >>

More on the SPCA’s Wildlife Department >>

More information on this story:




SPCA Rescues Juvenile Bald Eagle from Angola; Bird is the Second Eagle in Critical Condition Brought to SPCA Since Friday

August 1, 2022
By: SPCA Chief Communications Officer Gina Lattuca and SPCA Communications Manager Bethany Kloc

UPDATE, August 9 — Sad news was just shared by Barbara Haney. Unfortunately, both eagles have passed. On Thursday, August 4, Wildlife Department staff arrived in the morning to find that the Angola eagle had passed during the night. On Sunday, August 7, again staff arrived to find the eagle that was brought to us by the DEC had passed during the night. Haney states that, despite the best efforts and expert care on the part of the team, the health of both eagles was extremely compromised, and despite the very poor prognosis, everything possible was done to save their lives.

She adds, “We never really understood what was making them sick. Eagles are often the ‘canaries in the coal mine’ when it comes to the health of our environment. They are susceptible to toxins in the environment because of their ability to be opportunistic and often acting like scavengers. They’ll eat morsels of garbage and roadkill. These were both young birds too and they probably got into trouble in that way. Our environment is ripe with chemicals that can cause some issues with these sensitive birds. Pesticides, dyes, gasoline, plastic, lead, heavy metals, and bromine-based herbicides can all cause serious illness to eagles. National Audubon has stated that we’ve lost nearly 3 billion birds since 1970 and, going forward, it looks like [there will be more] birds dying from unknown causes, just like these two eagles, as we continue to lose more birds due to anthropomorphic causes. In addition, our warming climate has the potential to increase the prevalence of insect born diseases like Avian Malaria and West Nile Virus. We will be sending their carcasses to DEC for further testing so that their lives can continue to teach us and help us to save our precious birds of WNY.”

UPDATE, August 2 — Wildlife Director Barbara Haney states that the prognosis for both eagles is extremely poor. In fact, the eagle found in Angola has aspergillosis and elevated lead levels. We will continue to update this page with further developments.

Late this afternoon, SPCA Serving Erie County Officer Lindsey Wood rescued a juvenile bald eagle from Angola, NY and rushed it to the SPCA’s Wildlife Department, where it is currently receiving a preliminary exam by staff there.

Earlier today, SPCA officers received a call from Town of Evans Dog Control Officer Michael Franey. He said there was an eagle down in the woods at the end of his street, and was concerned because he was able to walk up to the bird without the bird flying away. Franey asked that SPCA officers assess the situation.

Officer Wood, with invaluable assistance by Franey and Drew Supon, a resident at the property, was able to safely confine the eagle.

A preliminary assessment by SPCA Wildlife Department staff states the bird is extremely thin with burns on its feet. A full examination is happening at this time, and we will update this page with additional information this week.

At the time of this writing, information was shared on another bald eagle already under the care of the SPCA Wildlife Department. That bird was brought to the SPCA Serving Erie County Friday morning, July 29.

Moments ago, SPCA Wildlife Director Barbara Haney shared with us information on a call that was received late last week by the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC). DEC representatives told members of the SPCA Wildlife Department that they received a call to pick up a deceased eagle. Upon arrival, they realized the eagle was very ill, but breathing, and they rushed the eagle to our Wildlife hospital Friday morning. (That eagle is pictured here with SPCA Veterinarian Dr. Karen Slote.)

Haney states, “Although the bird is still in critical condition, we are cautiously optimistic as he has made it through the weekend. He was so weak that he couldn’t stand, lift his head, or open his eyes. There have been minor improvements and he is a bit feistier! That is good news. What we know is that there are no fractures of any bones and the lead levels are normal. We are treating the eagle for head trauma and an [IV solution] should help draw out any swelling of the brain. Although we have seen some improvement, this eagle is still also very much in critical condition.”

This page will be updated this week with the progress of the eagle brought to the SPCA by the DEC Friday, in addition to the eagle rescued by the SPCA’s Officer Wood today.

You can help the SPCA save area wildlife >>

Last year, National Volunteer Appreciation Week looked unlike any year prior. The SPCA Serving Erie County chose to continue serving the community as effectively as possible while the county…and the world…continued navigating a worldwide pandemic. Our volunteers stood by, ready and willing to help us continue to serve the people and animals of our community in whatever way possible. This year during National Volunteer Appreciation Week, as we continue to rebuild and restructure, we take a look back at last year’s efforts and again thank our volunteers for their dedication, their loyalty, their smiles, and most of all, for their love.

Day 5, April 22 [Reposted April 21, 2022]

“Good actions give strength to ourselves and inspire good actions in others.”    – Plato

“The difference between what we do and what we are capable of doing would suffice to solve most of the world’s problems”
– Mahatma Gandhi

Today’s appreciation post comes to us from Director of Wildlife Barbara Haney:

Last year, when COVID hit just before our busiest time of year in Wildlife, we immediately had to pause our 150 volunteers because, like everyone else in the world, we didn’t quite know how we could ensure their safety during a pandemic. Not having volunteers didn’t change the fact that, in order to keep serving the animals and people of our community, we needed to somehow prepare for the 500 or so sick injured and orphaned wildlife that would be admitted in May alone.

The few volunteers we were able to bring back were put to the test, working long hours and constantly pivoting as we regularly changed every policy and procedure to stay in compliance with pandemic protocol.

The level of patience, understanding, and hard work that was put in by the small group of elite volunteers that we did bring back is astonishing. Everyone in the entire community should be proud of the wildlife volunteers that helped us to continue to care for over 3000 wild animals during what was one of the most challenging years that the world has endured.

Kindness and compassion drove every one of the volunteers, and together, we found a greater purpose and joy in the selfless service that is provided for our wild animal friends.

Thanks to volunteers, our Wildlife Department was able to continue caring for the wild animals of our community throughout 2020 and into 2021, including the animals you see in these photos.

Christin, an Environmental Studies major at University at Buffalo, is weighing Cypress the turtle. You’ll also see orphans and an opossum who was seeking an orthodontist who came to us in May; a turtle, fox, green heron, and one of five Northern Flickers who became our patients in July; a feathered friend not having his best day who was an autumn visitor; and a grease-covered robin who received a bath while slightly sedated in November.

Thanks to the volunteers who helped these animals receive second chances over the last 13 months.

–Gina Lattuca, SPCA Chief Communications Officer

High Mortality, Disease Levels During Current HPAI Outbreak; SPCA Says All Should Be Aware of Risk

April 14, 2022
By: SPCA Wildlife Director Barbara Haney & Chief Communications Officer Gina Lattuca

-Current HPAI outbreak infecting domestic poultry as well as wildlife, responsible for high levels of infection and mortality.

-SPCA Serving Erie County working with Erie County Health Department Division of Emergency Preparedness and Messinger Woods Wildlife Care and Education Center to continue accepting and treating local wildlife and to protect species.

-Community members urged to protect animals and prevent HPAI spread.

-Community members urged to report to the DEC observed die-offs of personal flocks, or of two or more members of same wild species in same area.

-Community members bringing birds to the Wildlife Department hospital at the SPCA are asked to wear masks, gloves, and are asked to not enter the building through any entrance; an admission area has been established outside the SPCA’s Wildlife Department.

Concern continues to mount regarding the current Highly Pathogenic Avian Flu (HPAI), according to SPCA Serving Erie County Wildlife Director Barbara Haney.

In an effort to share with members of the public why everyone should be aware of this outbreak and why a response must be rapid, Haney says, “This is a serious outbreak, the most serious since 2015, and needs to be treated as such. It is causing tremendous disease and mortality. As facilities around us are closing [Buffalo Zoo’s Rainforest Falls, Hawk Creek Wildlife’s Center admission of birds for rehabilitation, etc.] and poultry farms are ‘depopulating,’ the SPCA Serving Erie County Wildlife Department has been busy planning for a high likelihood of a potential outbreak of HPAI here in Erie County.”

According to an April 12, 2022 HPAI outbreak document on Market Intel,  “Highly pathogenic avian influenza was first detected in wild birds in South Carolina on Jan. 13 of this year. Poultry growers, remembering well the 2014-2015 outbreak, collectively held their breath, hoping that the second shoe – outbreaks in commercial and backyard flocks – wouldn’t drop. Unfortunately, despite advanced biosafety protocols, the first outbreak in domesticated birds was detected on Feb. 8. Through April 7, USDA has announced more than 600 detections in wild birds across 31 states and 158 detections in commercial and backyard flocks across 25 states.”

Says Haney, “HPAI is spread through migrating waterfowl primarily shedding the virus as they migrate through and over areas. The last outbreak affected mainly turkeys. This outbreak is different in that it is affecting domestic poultry as well as wildlife, and is now present on the east coast [the last outbreak did not make it to the Atlantic migratory fly-way].”

Local wild species most at risk are gulls, all waterfowl (including mallards and Canada geese) and marsh birds, often asymptomatic, and crows, ravens, blue jays, and raptors. Haney shares that more than 24 million domestic poultry have been depopulated, and that, according to the American Farm Bureau, 40% of detections have been backyard flocks. “Owners of backyard flocks need to be diligent in practicing bio-security to protect their birds,” Haney warns, recommending flock owners turn to the USDA for information on proper and effective protection.

Locally, members of the SPCA Serving Erie County Wildlife Department, Messinger Woods Wildlife Care and Education Center, and Wild Kritters received training from the Erie County Department of Health (ECDOH) Division of Emergency Preparedness to learn the best way to provide care to wild animals during this deadly outbreak. “While the HPAI risk to humans is minimal, if an infected wild animal enters the SPCA, our Wildlife Department could be closed for 30 days or more,” Haney says. “We cannot afford taking that chance, especially during what we call ‘baby season.’ Too many injured and/or orphaned animals need our help, especially at this time of year.”

To safely continue serving as many animals as possible and to protect humans as well as avian species and mammals, the SPCA has set up a wildlife admission area outside of the building, and with the help of the ECDOH, the Wildlife team has been outfitted with full PPE and N95 masks. All sick or injured birds of the at-risk species will be triaged by phone, and appropriate PPE and quarantine procedures will be in place. A system to separate and protect species has been established with Messinger Woods.

“When bringing a bird to our hospital, we ask that community members wear masks and gloves, and that they do not, under any circumstances, enter the facility at any part of the building,” Haney recommends.

Members of the community are asked to be cognizant of transporting objects or materials that might carry infection when out hiking or birding in areas that attract waterfowl; footwear should be cleaned or changed to reduce chances of spreading disease.

Those who observe die-off of any part of a personally-owned flock population, or two or more of the same wild species in the same area, are asked to notify the state Department of Environmental Conservation at 877-457-5680.

Contact the SPCA’s Wildlife Department with questions regarding wildlife, rehabilitation, and rescue: (716) 875-7360, ext. 247.

Hear more on Newsradio 930 WBEN >>

See This Story on News 4 Buffalo >>

More From 2 WGRZ On Your Side >>

Cornell Says Remove Bird Feeders >>

ECDOH HPAI Training at SPCA >>


April 5, 2022 — April 2 was a busy day at the SPCA Serving Erie County! Representatives of the Erie County Health Department’s Division of Emergency Preparedness came to the SPCA to help our Wildlife Department prepare to provide the safest care possible for our feathered friends due to Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI).

Representatives from Messinger Woods Wildlife Care and Education Center and Wild Kritters of Niagara County Inc. were invited to the session to learn, along with us, the best way to provide care upon receipt of animals affected by HPAI.

Members of the SPCA’s Wildlife Department and Educational Farm have spent many hours planning ahead in the event our organization is faced with admission of animals suffering from this highly-contagious disease carried by free-flying wild birds (ducks, geese, gulls, etc.). with new strains causing illness and high mortality in wild birds and domestic poultry.

The SPCA Serving Erie County extends a heartfelt thanks to the Erie County Health Department for the training, the donation of tremendous amounts of PPE, and fitting attendees for N95 respirators.

Read the March 24, 2022 report on HPAI from the Cornell University Wildlife Health Lab (the most recent University report on HPAI available at the time of this writing) HERE. For more on 2022 detections of HPAI in New York State commercial and backyard flocks, visit the USDA’s information page HERE.



— Gina Lattuca, SPCA Serving Erie County Chief Communications Officer

From Cornell Cooperative Extension and WKBW-TV 7 Buffalo: Take Down Bird Feeders to Help Stop Spread of Avian Flu

Click on image to see the full story


–Gina Lattuca, SPCA Serving Erie County Chief Communications Officer


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