The real McCoy: My 2022 Person of the Year

Betty BeanJefferson, Knox Scene

Update: Lynne McCoy died on January 20, 2023. Her family plans a celebration of life in the spring, a time for rebirth. Her obituary.

I found a baby crow under my magnolia tree some years ago. He didn’t seem particularly afraid of me, and he really didn’t want to stay out in the open. He kept hopping onto my porch, and I worried about leaving him at the mercy of prowling neighborhood cats.

So, I took him inside and tried to take care of him. I solicited online advice – most of which turned out to be wrong – and was getting frantic as I watched the little bird getting weaker by the hour. I’d named him Ernie.

Finally, somebody referred me to a certified wildlife rehabilitator. I called Lynne McCoy, and she told me she could take care of him.

First thing the next morning, I packed him in a cat carrier and set out for Lynne’s house in New Market. First thing I noticed when we got there was a most remarkable racket. Her house is on a major state route, but is surrounded by woods and fields that are inhabited by descendants of critters whom she had taken care of and set free, some of whom had stayed on to sing to her.

(Note: This is not to say that all, or even most, of the thousands of animals McCoy has helped have gotten released close to her home.)

I carried Ernie up to the porch. Lynne welcomed us to her home, examined Ernie and told me he had “hatchet breast,” a sign that he was starving.

“He needs groceries,” she said.

She had what he needed in her freezer. Plus, she had something else he needed: company. There was another baby crow in residence, and she said she’d introduce them soon as she got Ernie fed. Crows are sociable, and Lynne said it would be good for both of them to get well and grow up together. She had lots of other animals, too, and I was amazed at the time and effort she spent taking care of them. I made a small donation (which she hadn’t asked for) and left her house happy and relieved. I called her a couple of times to check on Ernie. He was doing fine and would be released into wild with his adopted brother a few weeks later.

I started following her on Facebook, and her page has been a regular stop for me ever since. I got to know Pudge and Bucket, the “whistle pig” buddies whom she’d rescued and released, and who visited her most mornings for breakfast.

Steve Sublett and Lynne McCoy prepare to say goodbye to Buzz, the black vulture

There was Buzz, the baby vulture who took a long fall out of a cliffside nest in Newport and was delivered to Lynne when she was no more than a fuzz ball. She blossomed into a sleek, long-beaked adult who loved posing on the back porch rail and on the mailbox out front. She loved Lynne and Lynne’s companion and helper Steve Sublett, too.

A few more pictures of Lynne and friends:

In 2020, Lynne’s cancer, which had been in remission for three years, returned, and she had to dial back her rehab work while she was in treatment. I cried when I read her farewell to Buzz:

“Saying goodbye to Buzz before she left to be with the American Eagle Foundation in Pigeon Forge, her new home. Heartbreak but knowing she will have a good life. And with other vultures there, she will be happy.”

Lynne cut back on her work for a while, but a few months later she was back at it again, rescuing and rehabilitating injured birds and snakes and mammals and marsupials – can’t forget the possums.

But it was a sad time, too, though. Cancer took Steve Sublett, and I wondered how much more Lynne could bear.

Then, a couple of weeks ago, this post appeared on Lynne’s Facebook page:

“This is Lynne’s daughter, Leslie, posting on her behalf.

“Starting immediately, Mom is not taking any more wildlife, and is unavailable to take wildlife calls either. Mom is currently hospitalized and recovering from major surgery that took place today. Please keep her in prayer as she recovers at this time. Thank you very much.”

Naturalist Stephen Lyn Bales wrote a tribute to Lynne a couple of years ago. It contained this succinct summary of her work:

“Since 1973, Lynne has given of herself, her time and her money to care for thousands of injured and orphan animals. Yes. Thousands. Last year alone, 1,718 passed through her home and most matured or were healed from their wounds to be returned to the wild. Of that over seventeen hundred in 2019, there were 484 opossums, 373 rabbits, 190 gray squirrels, 12 flying squirrels, 19 screech owls, 4 black vultures, 79 Carolina wrens, 61 robins, 2 great blue herons, 5 hummingbirds, 3 black rat snakes … and the list goes on and on. And because Lynne is state-permitted, a sheet of paper has to be filled out for each animal so that it can be documented. Lynne is a friend of mine and there are few people on this planet I admire more than her.”

This week, Lynne was released from the hospital. She posted this message:

“I am back home for now, resting and working on regaining strength … I will post more at a later time. Wonderful folks in ER and 3rd floor surgery at Ft. Sanders who have given me all the care I could ask for … Nearly 50 years of the joy of wildlife work has finally come to a stop and I wouldn’t trade the friendships, loves and sharings for anything … but, as always, my goal is for care for the needy critters and I can no longer do what is best for them … and that is quitting time. I will continue to post as I can, sharing the outstanding critters that visit.”

And finally, for those of you who are praying people:

Please consider stepping in for the voiceless friends of Lynne McCoy and putting in a good word for the best friend they’ve ever known.

Betty Bean writes a Thursday opinion column for Every  year about this time Bean picks her very own Person of the Year.


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