An encounter with an injured bird last weekend gave me a glimpse into the ultimate risk management—the fight for survival.
On Saturday morning, when checking out our six inches of new-fallen snow through the window, I spotted a large American Crow nibbling at a suet cake at the bird feeding station. Closer inspection showed that something was wrong. The crow’s right wing was not only badly damaged, but hanging so low it made movement through the branches of the tree difficult. The bird appeared healthy otherwise, retreating to a nearby bush for protection and cover after eating.
I called a 24-hour emergency vet in the area after consulting with the Wildlife Hotline. Since the bird specialist wouldn’t be in until Sunday and our driveway wasn’t yet plowed I decided to capture the bird the next day and take it to the veterinarian. I knew the bird was safe for the time being, with food and cover. Our yard, which we have made into a bird sanctuary, is the safest place it could have ended up in.
Sunday we managed to catch the crow. I cornered it on the ground, wrapped it in a towel and picked it up. As I held it, I found it to be surprisingly calm. The hotline had said that crows in such circumstances will rarely bite and knowing they need help, will usually surrender.
I left the bird at the vet, expecting it to lose the wing. Since it appeared to be otherwise healthy, I hoped to find it a home at a nearby wildlife park.
A call from the vet that evening told me otherwise. Because of the extent of injury to the wing, she wasn’t sure how far infection might have spread through the bird’s body. Key, she said, is that it wasnt clear to what extent the animal was suffering.
Then she said this: it’s nearly impossible to determine the extent of pain a bird feels. The reason is that in the wild any sign of weakness shown by an animal makes it a target for predators—meaning sure death.
Even with a broken, useless wing and a painful, life-threatening injury, this crow’s instinct to survive took over. Its inborn skills helped it to find a safe spot with food and shelter and to appear healthy and strong, while fighting for its life.
This incident showed me in graphic terms, the roots of risk management--to be safe. And that risk management is often a balance between being assertive and strong, and knowing when to accept help when it’s needed.
Survival—the ultimate risk management.