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death came a-callin’ at the animal center

September 12, 2009

It hasn’t exactly been the best year for our resident animals. Sometimes they get old and pass on.  Earlier this past year, our tame screech owl died – very small and cute owl. Also our resident de-scented skunk, our original kestrel – and that one was tame, unlike the one we have now, and last night our non-releaseable scrub jay died – they’ve all been living at the center for years.. and now today..

I always check on and talk to the 3 birds in the display cages out front next to the main building before heading in and gearing up for work. Barn Owl was fine, Kestrel fine, Merlin lying dead in her cage. QUITE surprising and sad. She was tame and one of my favorite birds. I really liked taking her out of her cage, she almost always did well. She even seemed fine on Thursday.

I told the woman in charge today about the Merlin’s death, she came and got the bird. She said the bird seemed fine a few hours earlier – her usual self. But, we got some unusual weather – just a little bit of thunder, before I arrived.  We tend to get 5 or fewer thunderstorms out here per year. My supervisor wondered if the thunder startled the bird and she flew up and hit the top of the cage with her head. They might have to do an autopsy to determine cause of death. I’ll miss that bird.

Life is all around there, but so is death. I feed the raptors dead mice every shift, that were killed at some college. We get dead ducks  from a farm to feed the racoons, coyotes, and occasionally raptors as well, if we run out of mice.

And we get animals brought in that are too hurt to be rehabilitated and have to be put down.  It’s just how it goes. I don’t get too down about it, but do feel a little sad sometimes. It’s just the nature of this business. As it was said in that movie “Departures” I previously wrote about, “the living feed off the dead.” We have to feed our rehabilitating predatory animals dead critters. And our 2 snakes and the raptors we are live prey testing, we feed live mice. This job is for people who are tenderhearted, but not fainthearted.

I will miss the Merlin, she was great to watch, to hold and spend time with, and it will be hard seeing her cage empty next time I go to work. I’m not happy about the deaths of any of the animals. Most of us do the best we can for them, and that is all we can do.

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