I thoroughly enjoy volunteering at the Utah Wildlife Rehabilitation Center in Ogden (minus the long drive) because I’m not only able to help these animals throughout their painful rehabilitation process, but the professionals up there are willing to teach you about the rehabilitation process and each species they work with on a daily basis. One of the most interesting cases I was able to work with was a baby golden eagle who had been in the rehabilitation center for over a year now.
This time my job was to cut up some mice and feed the eagle. When he was only 3 months old and still in the nest a couple of kids were screwing around with fireworks in the Uintas and caught some brush on fire resulting in a massive forest fire which destroyed this massive golden eagle nest on fire. When scientists repelled down to see if any of birds survived they found a scorched baby bird on the ground near by, therefore they named him Phoenix.
Phoenix will never be able to fly due to his scorched feathers and as we discussed in the fire lecture (21) forest fires cost over $1 billion year in physical monetary damage. Not only do these fires cost tons of money, but also they burn down species habitats and endanger them.
In the case of Phoenix he was unable to escape the fire because his feathers hadn’t molted and couldn’t fly yet. Fires pose a major threat to such species dependent upon the forest for their habitat, food source, water, if a fire burns through the ground cover and shrubbery it effects the food chain in it’s entirety.
Each time I go to volunteer at the Wildlife Rehabilitation Center there are always new animals many of them dues to human interaction. Not only do humans think animals are cute and fuzzy but they also tend to believe they’re domesticated and will pick them up and “make them their pets” which is unrealistic and will often result in imprinting and or harm to the animal. And as we discussed in class (lecture 21) on human population growth, as a species we keep expanding and using more and more resources, which is above and beyond our means. As the population increases humans cut more and more into natural “wildlife” land, which cuts into these animals habitats, food sources, etc. Also, as our population continues to grow we see an increase in the number of injured animals in the rehabilitation center due to human encroachment, habitat segmentation, etc.
For instance, I worked with a pelican this past week who had been shot through the wing because a fisherman got pissed off because the pelican was diving to catch fish and it was scaring all of the fish on the small pond. It’s instances like this that we need to educate people on because we need to co-exist with these species otherwise we aren’t going to have any wildlife for future generations to see and go camping and hiking amongst. It’s incredibly sad to see these animals in what’s essentially an animal hospital because of humans striking them with cars, gunshots, new housing developments, etc. If we educate people on cohabitation these species will be much better off and we can all live within the same ecosystem.
As I began working with smaller migratory birds who utilize the Great Salt Lake as a midpoint on their journey towards the south I thought of the guest lecturer we had who spoke about the Bear River Project. Before this lecture I hadn’t thought about the Great Salt Lake being a migratory stop for over 300,000 birds. The lecturer said that if the Bear River Project were to happen (so we could feed Las Vegas and Los Angeles more water) it would decrease the levels of the Great Salt Lake by several feet and would deplete the majority of the greater wetlands surrounding the lake. It’s astounding how often humans put their own needs over thousands of other species and could care less if their habitats and food sources are lost as long as they can have their nice green lawns in the middle of the desert.
The rehabilitators at the resource center reiterated how important the Great Salt Lake is to these birds. It was very interesting to see these birds that make the 1,000 mile journey down south to Mexico and South America. If you think about it logistically, these birds need several larger stopping points such as the Great Salt Lake and without such places these birds would die due to the cold.
This week I’m extremely excited because I finally worked my way up to working with the raptors, which includes bald eagles, peregrine falcons, red tailed hawks, etc. Today, I worked with peregrine falcons, which is the fastest species on the planet traveling up to 220 mph. It’s truly remarkable how fast these birds can travel especially because they are so small in comparison, but they kill their prey by launching themselves incredibly high in the sky only to dive bomb their prey and kill them in one swift motion. Knowing this I was incredibly swift in feeding this miraculous bird, but at the same time it was humbling to be in it’s presence.
Peregrine Falcons are on the brink of becoming extinct due to habitat loss (require a ton of land per bird), loss of food source, poaching and a high monetary on the black market (lecture 13). Additionally, the use of pesticides such as DDT have poisoned food sources (rodents and insects) for the peregrine. All of these factors and more have put the peregrine at risk in the past and continue to threaten them today.