By Amy Nicole Tangel
It takes all kinds to make the world go round. By committing her life to helping animals and keeping the environment thriving, keeping the world going has been an ever-growing demand for one Long Island woman.
Samantha Boyd said she has been an animal lover her whole life and knew from early on this was her calling. Certified dually as a New York State (NYS) Wildlife Rehabber and a NYS Veterinarian Technician, the lifelong Northport, N.Y., resident has saved countless wildlife creatures over the years and continues to grow new life through her mission to help save the endangered bee population.
“I’ve been rescuing animals since I was 6-years-old; all kinds,” she said.
All kinds seemingly is a vast understatement, but her current life surrounded by bees stemmed initially from her passion for gardening and the shared interest with 21-year-long life partner, Neal Wechsler. Samantha said it was about 15-20 years ago when she said they started noticing there were not many bees in the garden anymore. After having huge vegetable gardens for years and seeing fewer and fewer bees, Samantha said Neal suggested they think about raising bees themselves.
In 2010, Samantha and Neal decided to forge ahead and took their first bee keeping classes with a Master Beekeeper on Long Island to learn all about them.
“In 2011, we got our first hive and we just fell in love with it,” she said.
Soon enough, Samantha said it got to be they had more and more hives and had so much excess honey they decided to start selling it at local farmer’s markets.
With the profits from the honey sales the couple decided to put it towards the wildlife rehabilitation facility Samantha founded and the exceeding costs that Samantha said comes along with the ever-growing demand of her rescue.
“Basically, all the profits (from the honey) get funneled into the animals, because there are just so many and it is just so costly, so that enables me to do all the wildlife work,” she said.
People donate occasionally which Samantha said helps immensely and a lot of times those who drop off babies will give whatever they can even if it’s just a few dollars, but it doesn’t go very far when hundreds of babies are being cared for throughout the year.
In 2020, Samantha’s Safe Haven Wildlife Rehab Facility rescued 183 babies, and this year she said she has already rescued more than 300 in the first half of 2021 alone. Samantha rescues wildlife such as squirrels, opossums, rabbits, chipmunks, and little baby birds such as pigeons to name a short-list of her most common rescues. What would seem to be a daunting task for anyone, is simply a life that Samantha said she wouldn’t have any other way.
In addition to her rescue and beekeeping, Samantha is a veterinarian technician by profession and said she has 30 pet rescues of her own; taking in any pets she can in need of a home.
“Basically, anything that needs help comes my way,” she said.
Samantha said Northport was much more rural when she was growing up with bigger animals such as horses and goats, but even though it is very developed now a lot of wildlife still exists in the area. Living with close access to a very wooded area near the Makamah Nature Preserve in Fort Salonga, Samantha said provides her a perfect location with deer, fox, and opossums to release most of her wildlife rescues.
If raising bees, rescuing and rehabilitating wildlife on top of caring for family pets is not enough for one, Samantha also works full-time at the Veterinary Referral & Emergency Center of Westbury as an oncology technician who gives chemotherapy to dogs and cats.
Samantha said the people she works with are simply wonderful and very kind in allowing her to bring her babies to work with her, even helping her carry them in and out of the car. Just last week, she said she had 45 babies with her at work, and even though it’s a 24-hour a day job, she loves it with all her heart and wouldn’t change anything.
“It’s a project. It takes an hour to just get them all loaded into the car,” she said.
When Samantha rehabilitates and releases an animal she rescues, she said it means just as much to her every single time, because every little one is different with their own personalities and traits, so she gets to know them all specifically. Whether they want a worm or a seed, she said she knows and loves them all.
“I love it. I love being able to save them. They’re all little souls,” she said.
Educating the public is just as important to Samantha and Neal respectively to spread awareness and knowledge to others across Long Island about the importance of not only bees, beekeeping, and the health benefits of honey, but what people can do themselves to help the wildlife ecosystem.
The couple offers simple tips in their lectures such as putting a dish of water out when it is hot for squirrels to drink and having a bird house up in your yard, to knowing if a baby opossum falls off its mom it will always need a rehab; all differences Samantha said people can make that go a long way.
“They (mother opossums) have so many, they can’t count and if one tumbles down…mom leaves and she’s never going to come back,” she said.
As many people would feel, the first time Samantha encountered her bees she said she was scared to death. For Samantha, who has come to love beekeeping, the first few times she put the suit on and opened the hive to pull out almost 50,000 bees swarming, her heart raced to say the least. Samantha said she quickly got over her fear though and the bees are actually gentle and calming even though they try to intimidate you.
“If you move slowly, you have a rapport with them,” she said.
When describing the experience in the hives once acclimated, Samantha said, it is beautiful and the only time they really get upset is when the honey is taken, which usually only happens once a year. What started out as one hive quickly grew to countless hives, mostly due to separating and moving hives to prevent swarms, said Neal, but at the end of the year they are typically left with 70-90 pounds of honey on each hive.
Neal, who became a Master Beekeeper through Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y., said they started out thinking one hive would make a difference and realized after the first year it really didn’t make a difference having just one, so they continued to grow in numbers. With a calling to help the declining bee population and the knowledge that everything humans consume foodwise needs to be pollenated, Neal said bees really need our help in order to survive.
“They are vitally important and that’s why we do this,” he said.
Throughout the summer, Samantha said they will be selling their BeeWitched Bee honey products at local farmers’ markets across Suffolk County. BeeWitched Bee can be found at Northport Farmers’ Market and Tanger Outlets on Saturdays, and on Sundays at the Patchogue Outdoor Market and Smith Haven Mall’s farmers’ market. BeeWitched Bee can also be purchased at Stony Brook Farmers’ Market inside the hospital, as well as the Farmingville Historical Society Market.
For more information on Samantha’s Safe Haven Wildlife Rehab Facility and BeeWitched Bee, visit www.beewitchedbee.com or call 631-606-3330.