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 intended...free. 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?