GRAFTON, Mass. — New England’s epic snowfalls haven’t just made life miserable for humans: animals are suffering, too.

Veterinarians with Tufts University’s wildlife clinic say subzero temperatures and heavy snows have savaged birds and critters that struggle to survive even in mild winters.

Dr. Florina Tseng, a veterinarian who heads the clinic, said on a recent visit that ducks and geese are suffering because ponds and other natural habitats are frozen solid. Most should have migrated south long ago.

“They hang around and that was fine up until right now,” she said. “They can’t find open bodies of water to find food, so they’re starving.”

Tseng says the nonprofit wildlife clinic also has seen an increase in seabirds, some of whom have been blown inland by strong wind gusts accompanying recent snowstorms.

“They land on solid ground and then they can’t take off,” she said. “Seabirds need to take off over bodies of water to get airborne.” If they don’t they “can starve or get (preyed) upon by dogs, cats or coyotes.”


Tseng estimates the clinic has seen a roughly 50 percent increase in the number of animals it has treated, compared to last year at this time. The clinic sees over 2,000 animals a year on average.

On a recent day, Tseng and a veterinary student examined the injured wing of a goose while seabirds — a horned grebe and a common murre — swam in a rehabilitation pool.

Elsewhere, staffers were treating a possum that had been hit by a car and was suffering from frostbite on its paws and tail.

“We’re so busy in spring, summer and fall that we sort of look forward to winter as being our slow season so that we can catch our breath a little bit,” Tseng said. “That hasn’t happened at all this winter.”

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