February 4, 2002
For those who sent email asking where I've been the last few days, thanks, I've just been feeling a little under the weather and resting when I should be writting.
When I'm not feeling well I'll frequently slow my tempo down. If I'm really feeling ill I might curl up and spent a lot of time sleeping, like I did for the last few days.
Wild animals are not all that different. I'll ocassionally run into animals that are clearly not feeling well or acting at a level that is below their normal activity. Sometimes it's this slow down that can be deadly. It pretty much depends on how frequently the animal has to evade preditors or how important their health is in surviving the rigors of their environment.
Recently, over the holidays, while wandering afield I found a female grossbeak that was clearly not well. She would fly in an uncoordinated way that would result in her just hoovering over the ground, before tumbling down again. I watched her for a little while before deciding to rescue her (I nicknamed her resue). I was able to catch her and tuck her into my jacket until I got back home.
Small song birds are constantly preyed upon. The reality is that if I can catch a bird with my hands, she doesn't stand much of a chance in the wild. Apparently this bird had flown into something and injured it's neck. Her head was cranked to one side and she could not look either in front of her or to the other side, which made it impossible for her to fly straight.
As soon as I got her home she started eating the seeds that I gave her and drinking the water that I offered her. That was a great sign, generally the first step in rehabilitating an animal, once you get past caring for immediate trauma, is to get them to eat. Over the weeks she progressively got stronger and her neck gained flexibility. I made three attempts to free her. The first time she flew small flights almost completely around my house (I figured that if I could recatch her then she wasn't ready to be on her own yet). The second time I had this feeling... and I told her before letting her go "Now stay away from the pond, I don't want you landing in there"... and she immediately flew into the pond where I had to rescue her in below freezing weather, brrr! The last time she flew straight and strong into the trees where she landed and looked down on me. I watched her flit from tree to tree for half an hour before convincing myself that she would be ok. I had this really fantastic feeling of having done something right and being satisfied.
Absolutely nothing goes to waste in Nature. If something is injured or ill there are usually predators waiting in the wings to make a meal of them. In the long run this is a very good thing for the prey species, the weak get culled out of the environment, and there are more resources and better opportunities for the remaining individuals in the species. In a way I took a meal out of someones mouth by helping that bird.
I certainly knew that at the time, and I know it any time that I try to heal injured animals that I find. So what drives me to help these animals? Why do I and others feel the need to show "compassion", especially in the face of the bigger picture and the enevitabilty of death? Am I drawn to have as many animals as I can around me? Do I want to try to reduce pain and suffer when I see it (even if it means suffering for some other animal that misses eating a it's prey)? Or perhaps on some level I relate to the experience of being ill and just needing the opportunity to curl up and rest for a little while before heading back out again?
I'm really not sure.