Kathy Rogers, founder of Rogers Wildlife Rehabilitation Center, died this month at age 73. Photo by Andrea Ridout.
April 21, 2023
The local wildlife rehabilitation community was rocked this week as news of the death of Kathy Rogers at 73 spread across social media.
For decades, Rogers has been a prominent figure in local wildlife care and the wild bird guru of DFW.
The founder of Rogers Wildlife Rehabilitation Center devoted her life to the rescue and rehabilitation of wild birds and created a sanctuary in Hutchins, south of Dallas. Her center has grown to become one of the top animal rehab facilities in the country.
During a typical year, Rogers Wildlife Rehabilitation Center treats around 5,000 birds, brought in by individuals, animal control departments and game wardens.
“We’ve never turned away a bird in over in 30 years,” Rogers told Green Source DFW reporter Amy Martin, nearly a decade ago. “If people care and take the time to come down here with a bird, it’s incumbent on us to fix it up and get it back in the air.”
Martin chronicled the unglamourous work of wildbird rescue in her story on the facility.
I met Kathy many years ago when I found an injured bluejay and took it to her. We became instant friends and shared a love of animals. She even inspired me to become a squirrel rehabilitator. Her sanctuary would sometimes send injured squirrels to me and I continued to take birds to them over the years, including one just a few weeks ago.
Sometimes Kathy consulted with me on some rather unusual rescues. A while back, she received a pair of orphaned beaver kits and wanted to know if I could foster them. I referred her to another rehabber because I didn’t feel quite qualified but I’ve always kinda regretted it. It would have been an adventure, I’m sure, as were all of my interactions with this amazing lady.
Kathy Rogers hugs Riley the emu while giving a kiss to Brother, the llama. Photo by Andrea Ridout.
Roger’s organization has rescued over tens of thousands of birds — and a few other critters — since its inception. To her, each one was special. Each one was an individual.
On one visit to RWRC, Kathy took me on a tour of the property and introduced me to her emu, Riley, who buried his head in her shoulder as though they were long-lost friends. Kathy said that this was their daily ritual. Meanwhile an alpaca named Brother poked her from behind, also wanting his daily hug.
Kathy would often post about RWRC’s menagerie on social media including Maggie, the pelican, who was a sweet thorn in the side of their maintenance coordinator, Steve. Their antics helped grow RWRC’s Facebook followers grow to over 17,000.
Two rescued turkeys named Tom and Eddie were brought to Rogers Wildlife facility and became local avian celebrities. Photo courtesy of RWRC.
Two turkeys named Tom and Eddie were brought to Rogers by Fort Worth artist Helen Altman, when they outgrew her small yard. She was thrilled to watch them become avian ambassadors at the Center.
“Kathy Rogers didn’t hesitate when I asked her to take in my turkey boys! She kept them together and let me know that she and the staff loved them. I will be forever grateful for that kindness.”
Herons brought to the center by Oncor roam the property. Photo courtesy of Andrea Ridout.
As Kathy and I walked around the place, I marveled at the dozen or so great blue herons that were hanging around the sanctuary’s headquarters.
Kathy explained that Oncor, who maintains our energy infrastructure, brought heron eggs and chicks to RWRC on a frequent basis. It seems that herons like to nest on top of transformers but they can short out the power lines. Kathy and her team have raised hundreds of baby heron chicks over the years and they release them when they are old enough including the “flock” that just didn’t want to leave. Who would? Like so many others, they found a home at RWRC and became permanent residents.
Roger’s love and generosity weren’t restricted to her feathered friends. When local bird trainers, Lindsey and Simon McNeny of Window to the Wild needed a place to park their newly-built tiny home, she welcomed them with open arms. The couple lived at RWRC until they were able to buy some land of their own a few years later. They shared this tribute on their Facebook page:
“Honestly Window to the Wild wouldn’t even exist if it wasn’t for Kathy’s help and guidance. She pushed us to work with native species, we took in many non-releasable birds from her center and even lived in a tiny house and started our company on the property. The world truly needs more Kathys!”
The reporter's late father, Phil McEwan, delivers birdhouses to Kathy Rogers at Rogers Wildlife Rehabilitation Center. Photo by Andrea Ridout.
My late father, Phil McEwan, and Kathy forged a bond as well. One one of my visits to RWRC, Kathy mentioned that she needed some lodging for her baby owls. Dad enjoyed building birdhouses out of upcycled materials for various non-profits so he sprung into action. Soon, I was making regular deliveries of not just owl houses, but various other styles as well. Dad would often accompany me on these trips and he and Kathy would truly enjoy each other’s company. She had a way with people as well as birds.
On one such visit, Kathy told us the story of her own beginnings as an accidental rehabber over two decades before when a friend brought an injured bird to her. The friend assumed that since Kathy had a pet parrot, somehow she would know how to help the wild bird. So Kathy consulted a local vet and soon became a registered rehabilitator herself. It didn’t take long for word to spread and folks began taking birds to Kathy nearly every day.
She operated her ever-growing rescue facility out of her home for eight years until she finally moved it to Samuel Farm in 1989. A decade later, Browning-Ferris Industries donated 20 acres of wetland off of I-45 and Dowdy Ferry Road in Hutchins that is now the permanent home of RWRC.
The DFW rehab community has grown to rely on RWRC as have many public entities. Local rabbit specialist, Desiree Schorn, had known Kathy for many years as she would often take orphaned birds to the sanctuary and “I’d pick up cottontails from her,” Desiree related. Upon hearing of Kathy’s passing, Desiree shared, “Whenever I’m bird watching, I’ll think of Kathy and her love for our winged friends.”
Local bird trainers Simon and Lindsey McNeny lived in their tiny house on Rogers Wildlife Rehabilitation Center until they could purchase property.
David Hurt, owner of Wild Birds Unlimited in Dallas, was sad to hear that his friend had passed.
“Kathy never turned anyone away,” he said. “If an animal needed help, she and her team would take them in, no matter what.”
Amy Martin, GSDFW reporter and author of the soon to be released Wild DFW, explained that Kathy developed a large system of volunteers who were willing to make the drive to south Dallas County from around the Metroplex. Bird rescuers, too, came from around the DFW area seeking help, despite the daunting drive from most locations.
Kathy Rogers doctors a feathered patient. Photo by Andrea Ridout.
“Whenever a notice about an orphaned baby bird or injured bird came up on the neighborhood social media, a chorus went up immediately: 'Take it to Rogers!' When learning it meant a drive to Hutchins, there might be a little balking. But inevitably the rescuers returned to say, 'That place was amazing!' Kathy was a leader who gave so much, worked so hard, that scores of volunteers stepped up to match that commitment and do their best to emulate her. She will live on generationally in them.”
KEEPING HER LEGACY ALIVE
The team at Rogers Wildlife Rehabilitation Center will continue Kathy’s work long into the future. A spokesperson for the Center expressed that the entire staff will miss her amazing vitality and uplifting energy as well as her friendship. The RWRC board will release more details in the coming weeks but for now, vow they are fully committed to carrying on their founder’s mission long into the future.
“Kathy’s wishes were that Rogers Wildlife will continue ad infinitum. She made preparations to be sure that would happen.”
HOW TO HELP
Rogers Wildlife Rehabilitation Center has become a treasure that we can’t afford to lose.
Like many non-profits, RWRC survives mostly on private funding and will especially need help as they forge a path without Kathy. Donate here.
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