The entire Mohawk Valley has been dealing with the aftermath of the flood that occurred late Thursday evening, leaving many without power, damage to their homes and properties. This includes the Fort Rickey Discovery Zoo in Rome.

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The attraction was purchased by Allison Stedman and her family this past spring. They have been working to refurbish the property for the public.

"It's the time of year we get our animals ready to move over to the winter side of the property," said Stedman.

Fort Rickey has two properties - the zoo side which the public is familiar with, and a "winter" side, which the public does not have access to. The winter side is elevated with no chance of flooding. The animals that belong outdoors have their own paddocks with large run in sheds, and acres upon acres of pasture. After we close for the season, we transport our livestock and deer from the zoo side over to the winter side. That is the project we have been working on this week. All of our livestock animals have been moved over to the winter side, except for the deer. Which was our goal for today. Unfortunately, the unexpected flooding made that completely impossible.

She explained that the deer still had a large area of land that wasn't flooded, is warm and dry. But the area where the employees get in to deliver food and check on the deer had an abundance of water. It was the job of the Stedman and her workers to make sure the deer were taken care of.

We submerged ourselves into the water and carry the hay out to them ourselves, as depicted in the photos. Some areas were so deep, the water went up to our chests.

Credit: Allison Stedman
Credit: Allison Stedman

One of the workers at the Discovery Zoo is 17-year-old Jacob Thiesen. He wasn't called in to work today, but decided to show up anyway knowing that the property was going to be in rough shape. He wanted to help.

He is a very dedicated employee, who volunteered his time today to work with me, to ensure all animals were safe. We have a fawn who no longer need their mother's milk, and would likely be bullied by the other deer for the hay, so he carried her through the flood waters and into a heated building to eat and stay warm and dry. He was crying and heartbroken, afraid he was going to lose the fawn.

According to Stedman, even with all of the work they have done today, they got a call from the Oneida County Sheriff's Office saying that someone complained that they weren't doing anything to help their animals.

Does this look and sound like not doing anything??? We even hooked up the trailer to the truck, to keep on standby in case we needed any emergency animal loading.

Credit: Allison Stedman
Credit: Allison Stedman

She believes there will be some major property damage, but it's hard for them to tell currently. Most of the property is complete under water. For now, she and the rest of the staff are just preparing to do the work they've already done.

Everybody has a cozy, warm, dry shelter as well as plenty of food. We can go inside and get warm now, but we will be back outside in just a few hours to do it all over again. Rain, sun, wind, snow, and even flooding - there are no days off when caring for animals

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