Today, I fielded a call from a woman who saved an injured rock pigeon from a parking garage. She had just seen a car hit the bird, and then stop. The driver got out of the car, walked up to the struggling, shocked bird, and kicked it. Now, I know it is 'just a pigeon.' They are not native to the US, and since they are one of the few animals that can adapt to live in urban areas, there are a lot of them. I know they can cause problems, sitting on our ledges where they shouldn't be and crapping on things they shouldn't crap on. Believe me, I know better than most that in some instances they can pose a health risk. I get it if they aren't your favorite bird.
But I don't get the callousness of kicking an animal you have just injured. I don't understand how you can be so angry at an animal - a creature that doesn't have your ability to think things through and can't consider your feelings before thoughtlessly getting in the way of your car.
You see, it isn't just about the pigeon. It is a symptom of a deeper problem; a choice to be so selfish and so cold that you cannot recognize suffering in another living creature. It is a refusal to accept the responsibility that every sane human has; to be humane.
Either that, or the guy is some kind of sociopath.
And then, I come home and find out a personal friend is dealing with a volatile situation with a woman who illegally kept infant wild cottontails.
Now, it started innocently enough; she found them lying in her back yard (cottontails are ground nesters). She didn't see a mom (mom spends most of her time away from the babies, so she won't attract predators to the nest. She only visits 2x daily). So, she picks them up to help them.
A kind-hearted act, absolutely. But probably interference when no interference was needed. The woman wants to take care of the bunnies. She calls around to find out how to do this, and learns that a local wildlife hospital will take them in. She learns that it is illegal to keep the bunnies. She hears that bunnies are very difficult to take care of, and the best thing for them would be to go to someone who knows what to do.
But she doesn't want to take them to the wildlife hospital. She wants to take care of them. They are cute and warm and soft. They are so little, and they are HERS. They came from her yard. It is her right to do this, and she is darn well going to do it. The bunnies won't die; and besides, she's willing to take that risk.
So she goes to the pet store, and asks the workers there what she should feed her bunnies. She gets bunny death juice, marketed as an all-species milk replacer. She starts to try to feed the bunnies, but she's never done it before. She gives the milk too quickly, and the bunnies choke on it and breathe it into their tiny little tracheas and lungs. She gives the bunnies to her children to hold and play with so that they won't be lonely. She keeps them in a hamster cage, and feeds them odd bits and pieces of human food.
A few days pass. The bunnies have developed pneumonia and nutritional problems from the food and poor feeding technique. They are constantly afraid because of the unnatural situation, and the forced play-dates with giant predators (the children).
They begin to die.
The woman calls the wildlife hospital back and begs them to save the bunnies. When the last two bunnies arrive at the center, one has already died, and the other is dying. The woman's children are crying, the woman is chewing out the rehabilitator, shouting "They were fine a moment ago! What did you do?"
And it only gets worse from there; now my friend is dealing with all sorts of personal and professional accusations from the cottontail woman.
I get situations like this all the time; it is not new. My friend will weather the storm. The bunnies are gone, so at least they aren't suffering any longer. The wonderfully kind woman who saw the pigeon incident is helping the bird, and it will either make it to help or it won't.
It's probably a bad thing, but when I first heard these stories today, I wasn't even upset. I've heard it all before, and worse. But today, it struck me how similar these two incidents are. Both situations are a result of utter selfishness, and a lack of empathy. Both are wrong, and should not happen. It was definitely bad for the animals, but I am sadder for the people than for the animals.
Labels: wildlife conflicts, wildlife ethics, wildlife rehabilitation