In case you haven’t seen it, after spending several sleepless nights sharing a room with a mouse, a big-hearted West Point cadet decided to catch the little trespasser and release it in a nearby field. His friend recorded the event. The video begins with the cadet shooing a mouse out of a plastic container, saying, “C’mon, Whiskers! You’re free! Good luck!” as the mouse runs out and across the field. As the cadet tells the camera, “I’m relieved … but I’m kinda sad, too, I just got to know him,” a hawk enters, stage left, grabs the mouse, and exits, stage right.
“No!” cries the cadet. “He didn’t even last five minutes!”
It’s a rough world out there.
My heart goes out to the cadet (the hawk is probably awfully fond of him right now, too). I feel badly that he felt badly, and I want him to know that not only do a lot of us love and admire him for doing the right thing by the mouse, but we feel his pain as far as the outcome.
Releasing any wild animal is essentially rolling the dice. As a wildlife rehabilitator I’ve always wanted to believe that if I put enough time, energy, and devotion into healing a wounded creature, our combined karmic payback will insure that it will live out its life well-fed and trouble-free.
But this is not always the case. Carefully rehabbed seals are released, only to find an orca waiting silently beneath the water a hundred feet away. Rabbits scamper into the underbrush, only to encounter a coyote nobody saw standing there. I once raised 5 orphaned blue jays, released them, and was happily watching them fly around my house one afternoon when a Cooper’s Hawk blazed through, grabbed one, and disappeared. It’s hard to maintain one’s circle-of-life philosophy when that happens.
But we do. What’s our choice?
Naturally people question the video’s credibility, especially after that stupid and damaging eagle-snatching-a-toddler hoax by a Canadian college. It certainly looks real to me, and we all know hawks are no slouches when it comes to opportunism. Here is the video.
In any case, I think I can speak on behalf of all rehabbers and nature-lovers when I say to the West Point cadet: we salute you.
Suzie Gilbert is a licensed wild bird rehabilitator whose shameful secret is that on one occasion (well … maybe more than one) she has received a little brown job, or a fledgling whatever, and has been completely unable to ID it. Luckily, she has birder friends who will rush to her aid, although she must then suffer their mockery. She runs Flyaway, Inc. out of her home, and has been caring for injured and orphaned wild birds for 20 years. Why go birding when you can just stroll through the house? Honestly, though, she is wildly envious of birders and their trips to exotic locales. She is the author of Flyaway, her bird-rehabbing memoir, and Hawk Hill, a children's book, and is the sole parent of two teenagers. Never a dull moment.
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