Community mourns Catskills wildlife rehabilitator

Beloved wife, mother, wildlife rehabilitator, educator. Those are all the ways Barbara “Missy” Runyan, who passed away suddenly last week, was described by her friends and family. Funeral services are planned for the Catskills conservationist on Tuesday, Oct. 12 in Windham.

“Her knowledge is tremendous. It’s a horrible loss,” said Rachel Ford, a licensed wildlife rehabilitator and volunteer with the FFF Center for the past four years. “She’s an amazing woman and always will be.”

Ford said the center’s team of volunteers is “focused now on carrying out her legacy and that is what she would want – to never take a day off and to make sure these animals get the care and treatment that they need and deserve. The phone never stops ringing. There’s always wildlife in need of help.”

Runyan’s cause of death is unknown, according to reporting by ABC News 10. In a TV segment on News 10, another fellow wildlife rehabilitator Maria Del Castilho called the center that Runyan established in 2002 “her legacy and her life’s work,” and said “ there wasn’t an animal that she ever said no to,” noting that thousands of animals had come through the center over the years.

‘Let wild be wild’

Runyan’s husband Dave will continue running the center, said Castilho, alongside its volunteers and licensed rehabilitators, including herself.

A GoFundMe campaign was created by Runyan’s son, Michael Runyan, to continue Missy Runyan’s legacy through the ongoing rehabilitation of wildlife.

“She went above and beyond to make sure that all feathered and furry creatures had a chance to live out their lives where they belonged… in the wild,” read the fundraising page. The GoFundMe had raised $14,560 as of early Monday evening, exceeding its $5,000 goal.

More than 150 people and organizations have donated thus far, including the Catskill Animal Sanctuary, who wrote that they will think of her when they “walk through the woods, hear the screech of an owl, or smile at the young fawns grazing tender grass on Sanctuary grounds.”

Pets Alive, based in Middletown, called Runyan a “superhero” who was a “living, breathing encyclopedia of knowledge on wildlife,” and helped many in the Hudson Valley.

The Times Union: Hudson Valley interviewed Runyan this summer about residents who put deer fawns at risk by trying to feed or “help” the animals. Runyan said at the time that she had fielded almost 400 calls that summer alone relating to deer fawns.

“People fantasize about all of these horrible things that happen in the woods,” she said in August. “But we have deer, so they must be surviving. Until they come across humans that do all these things and give them issues.”

Runyan told us her biggest hope would be for people to trust that nature is powerful and knows how to care for itself.

“Let wild be wild, that’s what she stood for,” said Ford.

According to a Facebook post from the FFF Center, Runyan rescued and released thousands of animals in her lifetime. She also pioneered wildlife treatment protocols, launched an advocacy campaign against the use of lead bullets and lures, and educated the public about the importance of cohabitating respectfully with wildlife.

Earlier this year she rehabilitated Freedom the bald eagle, who was recovered by a New York State Trooper on the New York State Thruway (I-87).

“As Missy liked to say during her eagle releases, Native Americans believed the only ones were able to get close enough to the heavens are eagles,” read the FFF Center’s Facebook post. “She is on the other side flying free with her eagles now.”

Services will be held Tuesday, Oct. 12, from 5 to 8 pm at Decker Funeral Home in Windham. Runyan is survived by her husband, son, brother, sister-in-law, and nieces. In lieu of flowers, her family is asking for donations to help keep her legacy alive and support the animals in the center’s care.

Note: (Photo is courtesy of Keep Missy’s Dream Going GoFundMe campaign.)

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.