March 6, 2010 9:48:00 PM
We had an owl emergency in our neighborhood last weekend. My neighbor, "Farmer" Greg, found an injured bird on his property in Artesia.
When I saw his name on caller ID Saturday morning, I answered right away. Greg is not one to call for a chat. "It''s a Great Horned Owl," he told me. I could hear tension and concern in his voice. "It doesn''t look too bad, maybe just a broken leg. But, I can''t leave it here to be eaten by coyotes. Don''t you know someone in animal rescue?"
Now, I must explain that "Farmer" is my nickname for my neighbor. In reality, he is a doctor for humans. He has a love of nature and small animals. This is why we are friends. I totally trust his judgment in matters of all living things.
Chris and I rallied like soldiers for battle. Each of us in different rooms, with different phones, called everyone we knew (and a few strangers) trying to save the bird.
I will not bore you with the details. However, our frustration level was high, as we hit one wall after another. We called government agencies, the vet school in Starkville, animal advocates. Some took only babies, which this owl was not. We had offers to euthanize him. Too soon for that option, we thought. The closest rescue was a four-hour drive away. But, they were not interested in our foundling.
Late that afternoon Greg came home with "Bubba," a beautiful bird with soft grey feathers and golden eyes. He was quiet, but sitting up, in a cat carrier, coolly scrutinizing us through slits in the plastic.
"Apparently we can take him to Noxubee Wildlife Refuge," I gave Greg my latest info. "But, not until Monday."
"Don''t worry, Bubba," Greg tried to comfort him. "We''ll take care of you." It was a very long weekend.
On Monday, someone from the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries showed up with a cardboard box and a lecture that we were not allowed to have a "protected" animal in our possession. We knew that.
"What will happen now?" I asked.
"I''ll take him to my supervisor. I''m not an owl expert."
"Can you call to tell us what happens to him? Can we call you?"
"We do not have an office," I was told. "Our trucks are our office."
"What should we have done?" I asked him.
"Left him in the wild," was the answer.
"He looks like he''s dying now."
I suppose we made a lot of mistakes. Naming him was probably a big one. That made the experience personal and painful. All we really wanted was to find rehabilitation, not euthanasia.
In the end we did little good. More likely, we just paved one more stepping stone on the road to hell. I guess we thought something with the word "great" in its name deserved more respect, more effort to save him.
In the battle between man and nature, nature always wins. We relearned this truth, as I suppose, did the people at Sea World. When an animal is called a "Killer Whale," don''t be surprised when a human dies.
I mean no disrespect to the trainer who lost her life. But, Tilikum was contained in a pen that was too small, used as a breeder and a performer. He was an attraction that sold tickets and made big profits for the corporation. Who wouldn''t resent such treatment? Add to all that having people stand on your back as if you were a carnival ride. He had reasons to be angry.
Great Horned Owls and Killer Whales -- the world is filled with titles that humans created, but then ignore. It makes me wonder "whooo" is really "dumb."
Adele Elliott, a New Orleans native, moved to Columbus after Hurricane Katrina.
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