Sunday, September 7, 2008

Gone too soon

This beautiful vulture showed up on our back porch last Saturday. It had an injured wing, and I called everyone I knew for help, including the game warden, who turned out to be out of town. Fortunately, my priest, an expert falconer, was willing to come help. He said to feed the bird some raw meat, and try to capture it. We were unable to capture it, but it enjoyed the raw chicken I gave it, and drank more water than I thought its stomach could possibly have held. My priest finally came and easily caught it, even avoiding the vomit the bird spewed in defense -- twice! He took it to Last Chance Forever, an organization in San Antonio that rescues and rehabilitates birds of prey. A few days later, I called to check on the bird's status, and it turns out he had had to be put down. The vet said there was too much dead bone and it had protruded through the skin. Federal law requires that if you cannot return it to the wild, it must be put down. They said it was an old injury, and the bird had been going hungry for awhile as it had insects in its belly. I just felt sick. I wished I hadn't called anyone, but continued to feed and water it for the rest of its life. However, my husband said it might have died from gangrene, and so I'm glad we saved it from a slow death. I was also comforted that it had eaten a lot of rabbit the night before my priest had taken it to LCF. The bitterness of not being able to save the vulture was softened by the knowledge that it knew mercy and a good meal before it went to God.

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