When millions of years of evolution aren’t enough

Yesterday on my way into Boulder on Highway 36 I noticed a person with a net looking through deep grass off the road’s shoulder. I figured she was looking for an animal of some sort, so I stopped to offer my help.

And there was my friend and fellow advocate, Nicole. And sure enough, she was looking for animals – specifically, ducklings. She had been on that stretch of road earlier in the day and saw a mother with eight or nine babies, walking along the shoulder. By the time she could turn around and get back to where they were, the mother and several of the babies had been hit and killed.

Nicole, at the incident scene.
Nicole, at the incident scene.

Like so many thoroughfares, Highway 36, which links the Colorado cities of Denver and Boulder, becomes a gauntlet of death for wildlife each spring and summer.

No safe wildlife crossings are to be found, and those who attempt to cross must navigate 4-6 lanes of incessant traffic. Even birds and foxes and other nimble animals who have adapted to high speed vehicles are likely to die when faced with the reckless driver traveling 20 miles per hour over the speed limit.

At this time of year especially I try not to schedule anything that absolutely positively requires me to be on time. This allows me to keep my eyes open for anyone who has been injured or is trapped along a median, and to stop and try to help when needed.

The Young Housewife poem, William Carlos Williams
This incident brought to mind this poem, for its indictment of silent violence. [Emphasis added for effect.]
I’m not virtue signaling. I don’t relish this in the least. I hate that animals who have evolved over millions of years – even dinosaurs, for Christ’s sake – are getting violently injured and killed by the millions on our roads each year. I hate that their deaths are barely noticed, if noticed at all, by their killers and by passersby. I hate that the person who hits a deer is more concerned about the damage to their vehicle than the pain, the death, the injury they caused, or the fact that the mom or dad or sibling or friend who went out that morning will never be seen again, leaving at best an emptiness that humans can and should understand – and at worst dependent young, robbed of their birthright and sentenced to a frightening and protracted death.

I hate that humans have normalized being in a hurry and that our own evolution has led to an insane separation from nature and an all-costs pursuit of comfort and convenience.

duckling survivor
One of the four survivors, safely away from the road.

Millions of years of evolution will not prepare a vulnerable animal for an encounter with an uncaring human.

Nicole was able to save four of the ducklings, delivering them into the good hands of a nearby wildlife rehabilitation center. Because she cares so deeply, she had returned that afternoon to see if she could find any others who may have survived. After a thorough search, she was packing up when I arrived. She hadn’t found any more ducklings, but she wasn’t leaving empty handed, as she’d picked up some recyclables, likely tossed from vehicles by uncaring humans.

Here’s to you, Nicole, and to all with wide and welcoming circles of compassion. You are this planet’s hope.

Notes
If you encounter a wild animal who needs your help or if you have a “conflict” with wildlife at home or work, use Animal Help Now to find the nearest assistance.
It’s always smart to have a box or carrier of some sort in your vehicle. Click here to see what Animal Help Now recommends for a full rescue kit.
To support Animal Help Now’s work, please visit www.AHNow.org/donate.php.

 

When the Police Do the Wrong Thing

On Monday of this week, in Fitchburg, Wisconsin, a police officer stopped at the scene of a wildlife emergency. A mildly injured raccoon stood by the side of the road.

A compassionate person already had pulled over to try to help. Elizabeth had been there for several minutes and was at a loss as to what to do. “The raccoon extended his injured paw to me, as if asking for help,” she said. “I called every number I could think of.”

Her relief at seeing the police officer arrive was quickly replaced by fear, as he told her something to the effect of “raccoons have no value” and asked her to leave so that he could shoot the animal.

She complied with his request. And, according to reports, this mildly injured raccoon, for whom help was available at a wildlife rehabilitation center just 20 minutes away, was indeed killed.

Mercilessly. Unnecessarily. Raccoon babies

And probably leaving behind friends or a mate; possibly also dependent young, who would in turn likely die, and not without suffering. We’ll never know.

Elizabeth was unaware of Animal Help Now when she pulled over to help the raccoon. Now she’s familiar with us, though. And the next time she encounters an animal who needs help, she’ll open the Animal Help Now app and avail herself the best available list of local helpers, giving the raccoon or the squirrel or the bird, or whomever it is Elizabeth is assisting, her best chance of surviving.

As to the powers that be in Fitchburg, we are encouraging people to contact the mayor and the chief of police to ask that all Fitchburg first responders be trained in appropriately managing wildlife emergencies.Fitchburg WI Police badge

Mayor Steve Arnold:
Steve.Arnold@fitchburgwi.gov, (608) 278-7700

Police Chief Thomas Blatter:
Thomas.Blatter@fitchburgwi.gov, (608) 270-4300

We’ve posted a video on this incident on our YouTube channel. It contains no graphic images, but it does contain a 20-second recording of Elizabeth’s voicemail to a local wildlife emergency professional, which some people may find disturbing due to the despair and desperation in her voice.

Click here to watch the video.

It wouldn’t hurt to contact law enforcement and first responders in your area to find out how they trained to deal with wildlife and domestic animal emergencies.