Saturday, April 08, 2006

Rat Thumping

Having been so inspired by the eagle cam, dpr and I took a ride on Friday to Tarbo Lake to see the Osprey nest that we found last year. Tarbo Lake is not a great place. There's no trail around the lake. All there is is a gravel parking lot at the lake shore. We made that disappointing discovery last year when we drove the 15 miles and found no beach, but a parking lot full of spent shotgun shells, and a tattered old sleeper/couch. But we also found an Osprey nest with a resident Osprey on the other side of the lake. It was the one thing that made the journey worthwhile, so we decided to take the trip back there today to see how that nest fared.
Well, Tarbo did not fail to disappoint us one more time.The snag where the nest had been was utterly gone. Not even a broken hint of its existence. The only signs of life were these two Canadian Geese. They were wonderfully accommodating, letting us drive right in, waited for us to get out of the car and photograph them before they slowly waddled off into the lake.

So we left Tarbo and headed to the small town of Gardiner to the "local" Wildbirds Unlimited store to buy more high-end bird seed. We bought some less expensive stuff a few weeks ago, and there's been a noticeable and steady decline in the bird population in our yard. So we bought 40 pounds of Northern Choice Blend. We're hoping the locals will love it.

While we were in the store we struck up a conversation with the staff. She also works at the local Raptor Rescue center and was telling us about what volunteers might be asked to do there, after I had inquired. Her first question was, "You wouldn't be bothered by poop?" I answered honestly, "I am absolutely poo phobic, but only when it comes to human poop. I can handle animal crap." She said that a lot of people want to volunteer, but not do the real work, like wash the food bowls. I said, "Hey, I'd be happy to wash food bowls for eagles and hawks. It would be an honor." She said, "So you'd clean their poop, wash their food bowls, and straighten up their sleeping areas." I thought, wow, this is great, I can do all of this, and get to hang out with raptors. Sweet.

She asked us if we'd like to see some photographs of the residents. Oh sure. We'd love to.

What a surprise, she started showing us photos of three resident bobcats, a cougar, and a coyote.

Now I definitely want to go and volunteer there, I'm thinking, hell, I'll even clean up human poop if I have to. (Not really, I'm just so excited I'm obviously not thinking clearly.)

She asks, "How do you feel about rats?"

Well, I don't hate them, and I'm not afraid of them. Why?

She says, "Well, could you handle them and clean their cages?"

Sure, I guess so. Why?

She looks at me and asks, "Could you thump one?"

Could I what?

"Could you kill one with a thump to the head?"

Um, no. (Uh-oh I'm not going to get to play here am I?)

She tells us that some rescue places have enough money to afford frozen and vacuum-packed rats, but they don't, they have to raise their own rats (they have their own building, in fact). So the rats are killed on the premises and fed to the raptors and wild cats.
I can see the sun setting on my dreams of being a volunteer even though I'm willing to clean the poop from these wild raptors and bobcats. I take the phone number and put it in my pocket. But before I'm even in the car, I'm wondering if there's a raptor rescue and rehab place closer to home that has enough money for vacuum packed frozen rats. I'm so hoping.

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