Roosevelt Islanders

Rossana Ceruzzi: Life Devoted To Helping Wildlife on Roosevelt Island

Updated 2 years ago David Stone
A Rescued Squirrel Rebuilding Strength
A Rescued Squirrel Rebuilding Strength
Photo Courtesy: Wildlife Freedom Foundation

"Hi, David," she calls as she races by on her bike, the last syllable trailing behind me. It's Rossana Ceruzzi, off on another mission of animal rehab.

Rossana Ceruzzi has whizzed past me more times than I can count over the years since I first met her on the East Promenade behind Goldwater Hospital.

"I heard there's an animal rehabilitator on Roosevelt Island," my editor said. "See if you can find her." 

Not such a tough assignment, I found out. I googled and found her in his newspaper, featured as a founding member of Island Cats.

After a brief conversation, during which I determined that she was the rehabilitator my editor was looking for, we arranged to meet while she was doing her rounds.

An Italian teacher at Parliamo Italiano, now part of Hunter College, Ceruzzi spent much of whatever hours she could spare to ministering to injured animals on Roosevelt Island. Her bike, loaded with supplies, enabled her to cover ground quickly.

On this chilly, gray morning, Ceruzzi has no time to waste. I barely introduce myself and pass a couple of pleasantries, as we writers do in getting to know our subjects as... well, not subjects. She orders me to stand back across the road with her bike as she walks quickly toward a lone Canada goose in a grassy area near the lower loop road.

I'm aware of this flock from chasing them out of the road early in the mornings when out on runs, worried that a Daily News delivery truck might whip around the corner and hit them. Drivers, I'd noticed, were not so careful before daybreak.

Later, Ceruzzi tells me that she'd seen this bird limping and began treating her with the support of caring veterinarians.

"She probably had a hard landing on the road."

Before she can complete her mission, Ceruzzi must persuade a groundskeeper with a large mower to let his work wait. As he stands by, she nonchalantly approaches the bird and tosses her two chunks of bread which are eaten immediately.

“One is an anti-inflammatory. The other is the antibiotic,” she says. “I try to get close enough to get a look and see how the swelling is.”

Next she tosses handfuls of delicious seeds which are seized by the goose and a small army of pigeons.

"It builds  trust," and will make her next visit easier.

Free to talk now, Ceruzzi talks about growing up near Bologna and Rome, part of a family that loves animals. She came to the U. S. in 1992 and made Roosevelt Island her home in 2001.

While we talk, the mowers path closes in on the goose, until finally, she spreads her wings and after a running start floats over the promenade and into the river.

"Her mate is waiting in the water," I'm told, and we can hear the squawking of a happy reunion as she rejoins her clan.

Ceruzzi has rescued and treated countless animals in her fifteen years on Roosevelt Island. Many of her rehabilitations have involved, not unexpectedly, squirrels, known for their zany antics but spurred to heights of recklessness in mating season. She has also saved the life of a chicken, a possum and a groundhog.

A year ago, the Roosevelt Islander blog told the story of a kestrel bird she rescued and rehabilitated back to nature.

Now, Ceruzzi has formed a foundation. Wildlife Freedom mission is "to help protect and conserve wildlife and other animals in New York City."

With its base of operations on Roosevelt island, WFF aims to continue and extend her efforts. It can use your help. To continue helping cats, they need food, blankets, vet care, volunteers and foster homes. If you can help, click here.

And for the overall mission of Wildlife Freedom, money donations always helpful. Do what you can by clicking here.

Rossana Ceruzzi has been doing her part for years in making life better for vulnerable wildlife, even as local habitats have shrunk dramatically. If you can pitch in, she and the animals will love you for it.


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