Man feeding a seagull. AP Photo/Petros Karadjias
There was a seagull on the beach this past Sunday with a broken wing. The bird will probably die, as it is near impossible to mend badly broken bird bones. A little girl and boy and their dad, who were on the beach, decided to capture the bird and bring it to Terry, the wildlife rehabilitator on the North Fork. Many wildlife rehabilitators focus on mammals more than birds but Terry loves birds and took excellent care of this bird on a Sunday in the middle of having company at her house.
This seagull could have been left there to suffer a slow, painful death, but this bird will at least be safe and comfortable and fed for the night, thanks to the humans. And if it can't be mended or the pain alleviated by the vet, it will be mercifully euthanized.
Who does this matter to? Maybe no one. In seaside communities people are divided about the seagulls. Lots of people hate them, they see them as food-stealing, boat-deck dirtying, garbage dump animals. One friend in the Hamptons once chased down and tackled a seagull who had stolen a piece of chicken off his barbecue grill! (Hmmm, would you want to eat that chicken?)
But others see them as a sign of beauty and are inspired to create objects of art around them. They love them as they love the sun and the sand and the sound of the waves. And seagulls are the welcome sign, for inlanders, that after a long drive they are finally near the ocean and will soon be smelling the longed-for scent of salt sea air.
Is it possible that some people hate seagulls because they are just like people in many ways? Like humans, seagulls have totally adapted to the material world we have created. They will eat just about any kind of junk people produce. And while they may dirty up the boat decks with their waste, isn't that kind of what people are doing to the planet with their road runoff and sewage plants, and garbage dumps? It's ironic that the gulls tend to congregate there, at the dump. It's like the seagull version of the dollar store.
O.K., back to the story now.
People should use caution when approaching a wild animal that is sick or injured. One never knows what diseases they may be carrying and they will certainly try to bite or poke at or scratch your hands, face or eyes if given a chance. The dad in this story had experience with wild birds. Most people don't. But everyone knows how to use a telephone, and a phone call to a wildlife rehabilitator, if an animal is injured, can save at least one living thing some misery.
That, in itself, is a good enough goal. But something bigger occured Sunday on the beach with the injured seagull. A little girl and boy learned that they have a choice any time something happens in front of them, something that involves the suffering of another living thing. They can ignore it, or they can take action. They can act out of their compassion and change the course of events for the better. What they do matters. What is more important than this?
People can read more on the theme of doing things that mattter here:
For help with injured wild animals only:
Terry the widlife rehabilitator on the North Fork: 1-516-965-9716
Wildlife Rescue Center of the Hamptons: 631-728-9453. The center, located in Hampton Bays, covers Riverhead and Eastport in the west all the way east to Montauk and Orient. They are there from 8:00 a.m. until 6:00 p.m. 7 days a week, 365 days per year. During off hours, the answering machine will provide a beeper number that can be called. Callers have 12 seconds to state their name and phone number.
And for domestic pets only, there is a 24-hour emergency vet in Riverhead at: 631-369-4513