Explore Minnesota’s regular birding report is cheerful reading. You get to read about the newest migrants and rarities spotted in our state. But you don’t often get to read a story told like the one in a recent update:
“Any wildlife lover will enjoy the following story about a young bird that was saved from an untimely death. While this is the time of year that people find displaced baby bunnies and robins, it is not very common to stumble upon a baby great horned owl. One caring family from Richfield found the little bird, which had fallen from its nest in a tree several stories high. After calls and visits from wildlife specialists, they placed the owlet in a basket, securing it high in a tree. The owl parents inspected the basket, brought a mouse and have been seen caring for the baby. All signs indicate the rescue attempt has been a success!”
It was impossible to suppress delight after reading this. Learning of one baby owl saved can extinguish the stresses of the day. But I also felt a slight twinge. There’s always the issue of whether it’s wise and right to intervene in the case of the bunnies and robins mentioned above – often it’s not. The bigger issue, though, is whether saving one little animal makes sense when countless animals are losing their habitat and declining in population. At a public presentations I made a couple of years ago, a scientist in the audience challenged me to justify why sentimental people should be recognized for caring for one abandoned, often cute creature when their way of life, multiplied times 300 million Americans, were killing billions. Leaving aside the insinuation about our way of life, there is a good answer.
Why do we have to make a choice?
Rescuing an owlet does not rob you of a chance to help restore bird habitat, contribute to birding organizations or support laws that help protect habitat and species. In fact, it’s caring about one owlet that can inspire a multitude of personal actions that safeguard thousands of other animals. It’s what biologist E.O. Wilson calls “biophilia” – an instinct that creates an affinity between humans and other living systems. He regards it as a potentially huge resource in fighting off habitat destruction and other threats to wildlife.
Almost all of us harbor that resource. If we mobilize it, we can make an enormous difference. It starts with an owlet, and expands to the whole web of life.