Knowing My Limitations

Today was one of those days.

Fortunately, I got to work with one of my favorite education birds, Ricke (pictured left) the great horned owl. So named because humans raised him illegally and fed a poor diet of hamburger, bread and vegetables and now has rickets as well as being imprinted.

I have bazillion things to do before we head out to visit my mother. To top things off we had a huge group coming to The Raptor Center for programs early, so I had to be there by 8am. When I arrived, I walked out of the parking ramp and there was an adult rabbit on the sidewalk. She hesitated and then slowly hopped to some nearby bushes, leaving something behind on the sidewalk. I walked over and discovered a palm sized young rabbit. It didn't move and looked barely alive. I picked it up and something felt wrong. I could see some scraping marks and heard a crow nearby. I figured a crow had started to attack it and maybe the female rabbit was trying to defend it. People who had also noticed the rabbit were gathering, trying to figure out what to do. The obvious would be to take it to the Wildlife Rehab Center, but I knew this rabbit was too far gone to help, it was either leave it for the crow to finish or put it under. I love crows, and I know their part in nature is to eat other creatures but it's not the prettiest way to go--not quick death like with a peregrine falcon or great horned owl. The worst part was that I could see the female rabbit spying on us from across the street behind some bushes. Since I was on my way to The Raptor Center I said I would take it with me and the staff would take care of it there (and I don't mean feed it to any of the birds there).

I searched out Jane, one of my favorite vets and asked, "Jane, I hate to bother you but I have a huge favor." I held out the young rabbit and she looked weary, ready to send me to the WRC, but then she picked up the rabbit and felt the hindquarters. Just like I knew she would, she understood the situation immediately and put the rabbit down. I knew the back end of the rabbit didn't feel quite right but don't have enough of a medical background to know what the exact problem was with its legs. Later Jane told me that both the back legs were broken, almost crushed. We wondered if someone had stepped on it and that was what caused the crow to step down. When I was leaving TRC I noticed the lawn around the parking garage was freshly mowed. Perhaps the young rabbit got its hindquarters crushed by the mower or by one of the cars leaving the garage.

Then, I headed into downtown Minneapolis to meet Non Birding Bill at work and he asked, "Wrens are small and brown with a long bill, right?"

I answered, "Usually. Why do you ask?"

"There's one in the bush by the door.” he answered.

I looked at him and he knew I would have to investigate. It was a marsh wren (pictured right) that looked pretty scruffy. We've had some pretty significant night migration here so my guess is that this exhausted guy may have hit a window or was just too tired to fly a few more blocks over to Loring Park. It was trying to eat small insects around the windows. It couldn't fly far, not because of any obvious injury, but it just looked really tired. NBB and I made a few attempts to see if we could catch it to drive it to the park, but it was strong enough to avoid us. Gauging the situation: it could fly well enough to just barely evade us, it had access to some insects and a full blown operation to retrieve it would have more than likely driven it into heavy downtown traffic killing it or just plain exhausting it to death as it tried to evade us. We decided it best to leave it be. Sometimes you just have to know that you can't help everything out there and you're not personally responsible for every creature. Or at least that is what I tell my brain when it gets too anthropomorphic.