Monday, July 28, 2014

Victims of Greed

It seems a fair statement that paddlers, as a whole, are led to their passion by a love of nature. Therefore, while this is not a paddling story, it is indeed a story for paddlers. This love for nature will make this a gruesome story. Such gruesomeness is almost always glossed over, deleted supposedly for the benefit of sensitive eyes and hearts. Sensitive or not, this is a truth that must be viewed honestly to be understood.

To avoid politicizing this issue, I won’t divulge who Mark Twain was referring to, but he said, “The dollar their God, how to get it their religion.” This, this sin of greed, and the callous disregard for anything that doesn’t feed their greed, is what created this heinous killing.

It was about 9:30pm, 22 July, when our local game warden came to the door for Jean, since she is an animal rescuer. He brought her two owls that had been found in an oil tank at an oil well pumping site. The open-top tank was supposed to be covered with a net to prevent wildlife from falling into the oil, but it wasn’t. Why the owls went onto the surface of the oil can only be surmised, presumably going after another creature trapped in the crude. There was little we could do in the dark, especially since they were obviously exhausted and scared. One was so weak that we doubted it would survive the night.

Becoming calm, after its first wash it looks into Jean's
face with what looks like complete trust.
In the morning, I awoke in bed alone. Jean had long since been on the internet researching the best methods for dealing with their oil-saturated condition. She visited the town’s veterinarian, who graciously provided eye ointment to protect their eyes from the oil while cleaning them, and two rolls of 4-inch Vetrap to bind their talons to prevent them from injuring and infecting us during the process of cleaning. Jean also purchased four five-gallon buckets, leather welders’ gloves, and a quart of mayonnaise. The vet stressed that even with heavy welders’ gloves, he still had scars from a bout with an owl years before. Nevertheless, once everything was assembled, the operation began.

The sweet face of a creature in need.
As expected, the owls were scared, frantic, and ready to attack anything that came close. Getting them out of the plastic dog kennel they had been scooped into for transport was going to be a challenge. As soon as I started to reach in to remove one of the owls, they both flipped onto their backs with their long, sharp talons waving in the air, ready to set their talons into my hands as soon as I got close enough. I approached the bird a second time with a blanket, which it immediately locked its talons into. With its talons locked closed, we were able to lift it out and wrap it in a towel. We took turns, one holding the owl’s legs, and the other placing a block of foam in its talons and then wrapping the talons with the Vetrap.

The oil pellets (looking like gravel to the left) are from the second
 washing, and the oily water is the fourth rinse after the second wash.
This was our first encounter with owls, so we were anxious for any helpful input. The vet suggested we let the neighbors know what we were doing, because the ear-piercing screams of the owls might sound just like a woman screaming. To avoid having to answer a lot of questions while we were working, I called the police department to let them know what we were about, and that if they received any calls about a damsel in distress, it was just us and our owls.

Lying on a towel in the bottom of the cage, the first owl, unable to
recover, passes away.
The most amazing thing that happened was that I was able to talk the birds down from their panic. While Jean worked on them, I cradled them in a towel and softly talked to them. Each seemed to understand that we were trying to help, and the picture of the one looking into Jean’s face seemed to reflect a feeling of total trust.

Cont'd tomorrow.

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