Friday, September 28, 2012

Context for a Dove

Last weekend, George found a dove in our yard hopping around on the ground, apparently injured and unable to fly. It probably flew into a window and had its brain addled.

The dove now lives in a box in our garage, where George put it to keep it safe while it recovers. The dove is alert, eating, and drinking. It's starting to fly again, but not well. I spoke to wildlife rescue Thursday and was told to give it another day to recover, then set it free.

If you've read Questioning for a while, you might remember that George rescued a barred owl on the side of the road in Caesar Creek State Park. We took him to the Glen Helen Raptor Center, where he was named Caesar. With excellent care at the Raptor Center, Caesar recovered, and the Center allowed George to release him back into the wild where he'd come from. (For the full story, read here and here.)

Owls are raptors, and while barred owls are not endangered, something about raptors in general captures our imagination and respect. Our national bird is the bald eagle, and rescue organizations for various species of raptors attract a lot of media attention.

Doves don't exactly inspire the same level of attention. First of all, they are everywhere. No one over the age of three gets excited when they see a dove. "Oh, look! A DOVE!" Yeah, that doesn't sound as good as "Oh, look! A Cooper's hawk! A peregrine falcon! A bald eagle! A snowy owl!"

Also, dove season brings out hunters in droves. Apparently, dove stew is rather tasty. While I helped prepare it as a teen when my dad had a good day hunting, I never ate it because of my adolescent-girl squeamishness.

These days, I'd try dove stew. I've eaten quail breast wrapped in bacon, and while one could argue that wrapping pretty much anything in bacon makes it amazing, I enjoyed the quail. Heck, I've eaten wild elk, deer, duck, bison, and even bear. (All are tasty except the bear. I only recommend eating bear if you're quite literally starving to death.)

So I shouldn't have been surprised by the responses George got when he posted on an internet forum asking for advice on caring for an injured dove. Rescuing doves, apparently, isn't high on some people's agendas. It's easier to ignore them or feed them to hawks or neighborhood cats than put effort and resources into rescuing them.

These people who are indifferent to the plight of injured doves point out that it's just the Circle of Life. Predators feed on the weak and injured. Watch the National Geographic specials where lions isolate the injured wildebeest that can't keep up. Nature is red in tooth and claw, and an injured animal doesn't stand a chance. Its death gives life to animals higher up the food chain.

That's just the way it is.

But how do you respond when a helpless animal is on the ground in front of you? Do you let the Circle of Life run its course (or aid it along by tossing the injured animal over your fence), or do you do what you can with what you have to help the creature have a fighting chance?

With Caesar, our hope from the beginning was that he would be returned to the wild. Young owls don't have a great chance at survival in the wild, but they live as God Caesar, however, didn't stand a chance against the truck that hit him. The Glen Helen Raptor Center gave him the opportunity to return to the wild with a fighting chance.

I should note that when George posted on the same forum with the owl story, he got nothing but kudos.

We're humans. We evolved to be social creatures, to feel sympathy and compassion for each other, to help each other, to care for the sick and injured among us. For many of us, that compassion doesn't stop at our own species. We know that the Circle of Life is real and that we omnivores are a part of it, but we also know that in our own small way, we can work to make it at least a tiny bit more fair when the opportunity arises.

Life is complicated and inconsistent. In different contexts, we find ourselves eating bacon-wrapped quail breasts and also rescuing injured doves. I'm okay with that.

I'm also happy to have married a man who feels the same.

Have you ever rescued an injured animal? Have you ever left one to the Circle of Life? How do you feel about favoritism in animal rescue...owls more important than doves, monk seals more important than, say, banana slugs?  


  1. Bless your heart for taking that dove in and looking after it. We had some doves nest in one of our trees this summer and once I figured out that their "hooting coos" were dove noises and not owls we watched for them regularly. They are lovely birds.

    Kids and I resuced a little sparrow in our back yard whose flying lessons took a bad turn I think. We held it and made a little "nest" for it and then put it on our patio table, only to have a big old crow swoop down and take it!! Not sure who was more or the kids!! Have rescued birds from the cat bringing them in and 3 of the 4 have flown away to freedom (one missing an eye but able to fly). One bird we left to nature and it was beyond heartbreaking to see it fading and ultimately die. Nature can be cruel and it is survival of the fittest but watching it isn't my idea of a good time!!

  2. Never have been presented with the opportunity to rescue a wild animal. We have doves that live in our yard - I love them. Can't say I'd eat them. I'm a real wimp when it comes to trying anything wild. Well, except seafood. Then I eat lots of different things. George is a real sweetheart to be so kind to wounded animals.

  3. I'm glad George rescued the dove! It shows his good and compassionate character. Over the years in Florida we had a number of warblers or other little birds fly into our windows. Some would recover within seconds, but a few were knocked out cold. We would put those in a recessed, sheltered spot on one side of our house, where they would be hidden from hawks overhead. They would usually come to in less than an hour and fly away.

    One time I saw a hawk swoop down and snatch up a snake from our yard. He flew up and landed on a branch and proceeded to start eating the writhing snake. It was awful! No one dislikes snakes more than I do, but that was awful to see, and "Nature, red in tooth and and claw" was exactly the phrase that came to my mind too.

    I am squeamish about the Circle of Life--I don't want to see it.

  4. Die, Banana Slugs, DIE!!!!!

    But yes, we've done multiple rescues over the years.

    And I've tasted bear and I'm with you on that one!


Thanks so much for taking time to comment!