This is post is part of an assignment for a course I’m completing, called “Blogging 101.” Our task was to identify our target audience and write a post specifically for them. One of the reasons I blog is to share my passion for, and to educate about, wildlife. I try to show people the amazing animals that thrive in the wild places left around us. But this is a post dedicated to the other side of being a steward of animals. For many folks like my husband…those wildlife biologists, game wardens, veterinarians, farmers and ranchers, it’s the worst part of their job but they do it anyway because they know it must be done.
I hate days like today.
This afternoon, the Sheriff’s office called looking for my husband. Someone had an injured Great-Horned owl in town, and the game warden was unavailable to help. Could Outdoor Guy (a licensed agent of our state wildlife agency) take a look at the owl?
About half an hour later, the deputy showed up with the owl inside a medium-sized cardboard box taped shut. My husband took the box and asked some questions. Then he thanked the deputy and headed toward his shop.
“Sorry Mr. Hootie,” Wyokiddo called to the owl. “I’m sorry you’re hurt.”
“I’d let you look, but I don’t want to get him all riled up,” Outdoor Guy told me. Then he gave me the look. The “this is going to be harder on you than it is me if you look at it.” It’s the look he gets when he knows my heart is struggling. And he was right. My husband knows me too well. Because despite raising livestock for meat and hunting and all my talk about being a realist and understanding the circle of life, I have a pretty tender heart. I’m still the little girl who rescues lost dogs. I cry when I watch Animal Planet. And if I would have seen the owl, I probably would have gotten attached and it would have made it harder for my husband to do what needed done.
And as it turns out, his job was to euthanize the owl. It had several injuries, was severely emaciated and so sick and weak it couldn’t even stand up on it’s own. There are several rehabilitation centers in the area, but their focus is on larger birds of prey like hawks and eagles. Owls aren’t generally on the list of cases they will accept. And this bird had such extensive injuries, he probably wouldn’t have even survived the long trip to such a center. So Outdoor Guy euthanized the owl, according to the permit he has been issued from and with the permission of our state wildlife agency.
Afterward, I explained to Wyokiddo that the best way Daddy could help the owl was to euthanize, or kill it. I told her the owl wouldn’t hurt any more, and he couldn’t spread any illness he had to the other birds or animals around here and make them sick. We talked about how sometimes, an animal is so sick or so hurt that they will never get better. I explained that it is our responsibility, as humans, to keep the animals from suffering any more. Even if sometimes it means euthanizing them.
I hate days like this. I hate having to show my beautiful, tender-hearted Wyokiddo the ugly side of life. I hate knowing there was nothing we could to do help the owl, except end it’s suffering. It’s the cost to being human…feeling sadness and helplessness and making those tough decisions anyway.
Sorry, Mr. Hootie.
Please remember that under federal and state law it is illegal for anyone to injure, harass, kill, or possess a bird of prey. Contact your local game warden or wildlife agency if you see a sick or injured bird of prey. For more information on great-horned owls, or to donate to a Raptor Rehabilitation center doing great work on behalf of magnificent birds, please visit the Teton Rapter Center.