Friday, November 23, 2007

Thanks For Nothing?

If there was a person lying in the middle of the road you would stop right? And if you stopped you wouldn't ask what their religion or ethnicity was before offering assistance? So why is it different for wildlife? Why do people pass an injured animal and do nothing?

I was driving home Thursday night on SR-80 after having Thanksgiving dinner in Delray Beach. State Road 80 runs parallel to Alligator Alley just north of the Everglades and just South of Lake Okeechobee. It's mostly sugar cane fields and cow pastures with a few small towns dotting the landscape, so at night, the cars are few and far between. Half way across the state, I was switching between listening to the Thanksgiving Day football game on AM radio and Laura Schlessinger railing against an ecologist who was suggesting that humans have reached their "carrying capacity" on the planet. Laura takes the "conserve it so you can shoot it" approach to wildlife conservation.

On a dark section of road I noticed a pair of red eyes glowing just off the shoulder and caught a glimpse of a Bobcat darting into a field. When I looked back to the road I noticed what I assume the cat was after - a Barn Owl - injured and flailing in the road. As I pulled over and put my hazards on, a truck whipped past and barely missed the bird, spinning the ghost-faced owl back towards the roadside. The bird stretched the injured wing and clapped its bill as a warning. I herded it completely off the road and tried to flag another motorist for help. The "Grosbeak Incident" of '05 left me humbled and respectful when handling birds. So when no one would stop (and who would stop for a bald stranger in the middle of the night out here?) I grabbed my cell - 1 bar -but called information to get a number for someone who might help.
"What county are you in sir?"
"I'm not sure - I think Hendry?"
"You're not sure?
"I'm traveling!"
They gave me a the number for the State Fish and Wildlife Department
"Where are you located?"
"Hendry County?"
"We don't handle that county"
They gave me the number for West Palm Beach - 50 miles to my east
"What's your emergency"
"I have an injured bird"
"so there's no emergency?"
"Well to the bird there is"
"What kind of bird?"
"It's a Barn Owl"
"We only handle endangered wildlife or game species and that bird is neither"
"So what do I do?"
"Call a rehaber"
She didn't have a number for a rehaber - nor did she seem to care. Had I told her I was going to kick the bird in the face she might have offered kudos for such a suggestion. Laura Schlessinger would have approved.
By the time I got off the phone, the bird had disappeared into the brush. I'd like to think that it was feigning injury while shaking the "cobwebs" off from an impact from a car before it flew away. It happens. But I still felt like I had not done enough. That bird looked at me with fear. It wanted to live but had the misfortune of swooping into traffic. Some would say that humans are part of nature and this is just nature taking it's course. The bobcat might have had a feast and it's "just a barn owl". But why do we treat humans differently? We would never leave a human to a bobcat. Laura Schlessinger stated on her show that we are humans and they are animals. But if we use the "we are part of nature" argument - then we are animals too.
I guess if I deem this a bird emergency there were probably a hell of a lot of Turkeys that had emergencies of their own recently.
I just don't want to think there is a Barn Owl sitting on the side of the road with a broken wing thinking "Thanks for nothing".


  1. Pete,
    You dont' have to post this,but Schlessinger gives people of the Christian or Jewish faith a bad name. I truly believe that people are "above" the animals but if you look at the Bible in Genesis,God made Adam caregiver over the animals. The most charitable thing we can do is treat humans and animals humanely!

    I have run into this type of problem you had with the owl in Vermont, and I found it very annoying. One time a white fox was chasing the children around the yard hissing at them. I was worried that he was rabid. When got on the phone with the "professionals", they told me to shoot him!
    GGRRRR....go figure. Me shoot the fox??? And that's only ONE time! There are definitely other times.

    All I can say is take care of our people, our babies, AND the animals!!!!!!!!!!


  2. At least you stopped and got it out of harm's way. Most people would have done nothing and some would probably have tried to run it over.

    Hopefully, it will be gracing the south Florida night skies again soon.

    Thanks for sharing.

  3. Ah Schlessinger gives humans a bad name.

    and it's nice to have someone mention the bible/animals without the word "dominion" being thrown out there!

    I had the same issue in Vermont with a fox - it was a Red Fox that the Game Warden told me to shoot. These are the same people who when someone from Bennington chopped down a tree with a mother racoon and her 4 cubs, called the game warden who shot all 5 because "they might be rabid".

    grrrr indeed - and that makes us sound like animals :)

  4. It's funny how lately all the media has done this go green campaign and everyone is suddenly trying to "save the planet." But, do they really know what that means? It's all the little things, not just the big things like cars and aerosol hair spray. I'm happy you tried to save the owl. The universe knows you tried.

    l'il sister

  5. Hi Pete,
    I just wanted to give you a pat on the back for doing the right thing. You did everythng that you possibly could and used all resources available to you at the time. Good for you!

    On the animals vs human topic:
    Animals aren't malicious, vendictive or intentionally mean to other animals or humans. They merely do what they can or must to survive.

    We are supposed to be superior intellectually yet compassion seems to have gotten lost along the way. (Obviously not with all of us!)

    Great post!
    Thanks for sharing,

  6. The universe knew I was feeling terrible. 30 minutes earlier a dove smashed into my windshield. So maybe helping the owl was my redemtion or a suggestion from the universe that even I don't do enough and have to try that much harder.

  7. awww.. i just remembered the owls in vermont... this is heart breaking.. I hope he made it.. Good Job Pete!....-Lily