Earlier this summer, I found myself in a rather unusual situation regarding the rescue of a common game bird.
After a severe thunderstorm dropped large hail on our little farmstead, I was out wandering around and discovered a cold and wet baby dove on the hood of my truck next to a nest that had been dislodged from the tree overhead. The nest was nearly destroyed. On the ground at my feet, was another nestling that did not survive the pounding from baseball-sized hail.
I scooped up the young bird and placed it in a small box with a paper towel. After about an hour, the baby dove began to dry out and appeared to be healthy.
I questioned my actions and called a few friends for advice.
You see, I have given advice to others many times about not interfering with the course of nature and leaving wildlife alone.
The natural cycle of critters living in the wild and rearing their young in an unforgiving environment seems so very harsh and cruel to us humans.
The constant barrage of threats happen daily to wild animals. Living conditions are so extreme in the wild it is hard to imagine. Severe weather conditions are survivable by only a few -- the lucky, the hardy and the prepared. Weather wreaks havoc on nature's beings -- wind, drought, flooding, hail, tornadoes, extreme heat just to mention a few. After that, predators take their positions at the dinner table.
In short, the survival and the occasional abundance of wildlife when it happens is celebrated as nothing short of a miracle.
Considering these harsh conditions, it is not uncommon for humans to try to lend a hand.
It is in our nature to nurture.
So, disregarding all the advice I had given to others over the years, I kept the bird overnight. The baby dove made occasional tweets, pulling at my heart strings.
I quickly responded by gathered a few bugs and grains of milo and wheat that had made it into my wife's vehicle -- she worked at a grain elevator at the time. I crushed them all up, mixing the concoction with water and tried to make an appetizing paste of the mixture. Placing the paste on a toothpick, I began to make mother-like bird sounds to the baby dove while offering up the mixture.
I tried my best, but preparing a meal for a baby dove and sounding like a mother bird is just not my calling.
That night, I fielded a few phone calls from friends and experts who were giving me advice. All said the same thing -- give it up and put the bird back outdoors to fend for itself.
The best advice came from an expert wildlife rehab specialist, Carrie Newell from Hill City. I had covered many of her wild animal rehabilitating success stories over the years and valued her advice.
Following her directive, I placed the young dove back in a makeshift nest the next morning as high as I could reach in the same tree where it had fallen from.
I was shocked at how hard it was for me to do this. Two days passed. As I monitored the young dove's progress, it appeared that the bird's mother might have been lost in the storm.
I was heartbroken.
As hard as it was to watch, I did nothing and let nature take its course.
On the next afternoon, the bird was not in the nest. I had assumed that our farm cats might have enjoyed a free meal.
The following morning, I noticed what appeared to be my young baby dove on the ground. As I watched, the baby was being chased by a mature dove. I continued to watch as the mature mother dove offered a meal from deep within its throat.
I was elated! I think this was my baby dove being fed by its mother.
That was the last sighting I had of the young baby dove. Now there are dozens of doves that regularly fly around our house.
I can only wonder if one of them might be the bird I attempted to rescue.
The harsh environment that wild animals live in is cruel, but sometimes it is forgiving -- in this case it was forgiving of my hand in the rescue attempt and it ended up being a true miracle in nature.