I went for a long drive from my home in Lake Country yesterday and met some more of the finest people in our province.
The day was one of those golden ones we see so rarely in our winters, the warm sun glowing on my face as I drove to Kamloops via Hwy 97C. Bare and dry most of the way with light traffic, my canine companion Bruno and I enjoyed the mountain panoramas framing ice fishers on the lakes and animals in the snow-covered meadows.
We were transporting a juvenile American grebe duck, rehabilitated by Jen and the volunteers at the Kelowna SPCA, to its new home at the B.C. Wildlife Park on Dallas Drive. We made good time and followed the many highway signs to our destination easily.
I knocked on the door and was greeted by a cheery receptionist who contacted one of their own rehab personnel for me.
As I waited to hand over the bird to a rehab specialist a call came in to the centre. As I wandered among the many fine local wildlife and rock and mineral displays I overheard one side of the conversation.
A snow plow driver named Rick had found an injured golden eagle on his run near Merrit and needed help getting the bird to a vet. We all knew time is always of the essence in these matters and Rick could not leave his job of keeping our roads safe. I quickly volunteered to meet Rick near Lac le Jeune, and due mostly to one of Rick’s colleagues, a lady driver who took the time to contact Rick on their short wave radios to tell him where we were.
Bruno and I were soon headed back to the Wildlife Park with our new charge.
Highway 5 was clear of snow but messy due to spraying sand and water from passing vehicles.
In my haste to meet Rick I had not thought to check on my windshield washer antifreeze and was soon regretting it.
I ran out about 10 kilometres from Kamloops, but was able to stop at the first gas station to top up fuel and the necessary fluid. I was told they had sold a lot of it that day.
Tara, of the rehab organization at the wildlife park, was over to my vehicle almost as soon as I exited. As she thanked me profusely I watched as she quickly inspected the injured bird in its crate. I had not heard it move in the 20 minutes it had spent in my van.
Tara was careful to explain to me that despite their best efforts most birds injured by traffic do not survive. Massive internal injuries are normal, along with broken bones.
I told her the amazing story of Hawkeye the red-tailed hawk, found by my friend Karen, treated professionally and free of charge by Dr. Linda Kaplan, of Tri-Lakes Animal Hospital, and rehabilitated by OWL in Delta, B.C.
The collaboration resulted in its release back to the wild near Spiers Road in Kelowna.
Cases like Hawkeye’s are the exception, not the rule. No exceptions would be made by Mother Nature today.
The eagle’s elbow was badly smashed. Unable to be pinned like most broken bones due to the needed rotation of the elbow, the bird was in agony and could never fly again. It was euthanized immediately to stop further suffering.
Thanks to Rick and his female colleague it, at least, had a second chance.
People like these are our true heroes, the ones who risk their lives, like Rick did by leaving the safety of his vehicle, to try and help an injured animal on a busy highway and get help for it.
And the people who take time out of their day, like the cashier at Lakeside Gas near Merritt who allowed me to use her cell phone free of charge to keep in contact with Rick as he did his job.
And the volunteers and staff at the B.C. Wildlife Park and other animal rescue groups who are even now helping other injured animals, usually caused by human activities.
Then there’s veterinarians across our supernatural province who donate their services free of charge.
And how about the people who adopt pets and care for them as well.
All these people are the best of us, and should be recognized for their bravery and the responsibility for other lives they shoulder freely. Thank you all for caring so much.
If any readers find or hear of an animal in distress, help is a phone call away. The phone number for the British Columbia Wildlife Park is 250-573-3242.
All your local vets and animal hospitals have emergency numbers.
If you carry one with you, you too may someday feel the wild, soaring emotions that run through your heart when an animal injured or a pet abandoned through no fault of its own can get another chance at life, and prosper.
Do you believe in second chances?
Doug Maves is a Lake Country resident.