Surrogate moms for critters…

It was uplifting in the last couple of weeks to read stories about humans going out of their way to rescue wildlife babies that had been separated from their mothers.

The first involved a great horned owl baby that had tumbled out of a nest from a cottonwood in the Rio Grande bosque in Albuquerque. It was discovered by two Albuquerque residents who contacted Wildlife Rescue of New Mexico, Inc. The wildlife group said the bird’s parents, who usually mate for life, were probably nearby but just couldn’t get to the owlet on the ground. They recommended bringing the bird to the organization so it could be rehydrated overnight. It was returned to a makeshift nest the next day where it was hoped the parents would be able to spot it and begin caring for it again.

Great horned owl baby waiting for mom and dad

While the owl rescuers could hear the mother and father hooting at night to locate their baby, it became apparent that the makeshift nest was too close to a light source. Since owls are nocturnal, lack of light is important to their behavior. The rescuers were able to convince the electric company to shut off the light in hopes that the parents would come to the darker temporary nest to feed it.

At last report, the owlet seemed to be hanging on with its parents back in charge of its feeding.

In northern New Mexico, a firefighter working to suppress the immense Hermits Peak/Calf Canyon fire came upon an elk calf huddled in the middle of a field of ashes. At first, the firefighter believed the calf was dead, then when he discovered it was still alive, tried to find its mother. The mother, however, could not be found nearby and it was assumed she had been killed in the fire.

Elk calf named “Cinder” found in area of Hermits Peak/Calf Canyon Fire

The 32-pound baby was scooped up in the firefighters’ arms and taken to a veterinarian to be checked. Other than a few singes, the bull calf appeared to be okay. It has since been introduced to a herd of elk in a wildlife rehabilitation center near Espanola. The calf appears to have been adopted by another mother elk at the center and will be released back into the wild late this fall after elk hunting season is over.

That story was reminiscent of the discovery of Smokey, a bear cub found clinging to a scorched tree during a major forest fire in the Lincoln National Forest in the 1950s. Smokey, as you know, went on to be famous and was kept at the National Zoo until he died in 1976.

Smokey the Bear’s burial site at the Smokey Bear Museum in Capitan, NM

After his death, Smokey’s body was returned to New Mexico and buried at what would become the Smokey Bear Historical Park in Capitan, near where I grew up. When I was a journalist in Santa Fe, I remember listening to debate in the New Mexico Legislature about funding for the park. I specifically recall some crusty lawmaker grumbling about why the New Mexico taxpayers had to foot the bill to bury “some dumb old bear.” I’m glad his view didn’t resonate with other legislators who eventually approved funding for the park. And if you’re ever in the area of Capitan, it’s worth a stop.

2 thoughts on “Surrogate moms for critters…

  1. Just two weeks ago we found a raven at the side of the house. It could not take flight. Espanola Wildlife center said we should try to bring it in. Our friend Shelley showed up to pick up Caddy for her grooming session and was able to grab it with a towel and calmly hold on to him. It was determined it was a fledging not an injured bird. She also gave him some water with a siringe. after a good 20 minutes we placed it in the willow tree. Eventually he flew to the back rocks but just couldn’t get lift. after several hours he flew again but was just inches away from the neighbors roof. He ended up on the neighbors porch making such a racket the neighbors came out with a broom to chase it away. I got up on a chair to peer over the fence and explain it was a fledging calling to its parents. By the next morning the parents and fledging were gone.

    Liked by 1 person

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