My wife has gotten hooked on a couple British TV shows that are all about rescuing wildlife, and the British take that VERY seriously. Thing is, they rescue wildlife that don’t need or really shouldn’t be rescued. In one particular segment of the show they repaired the broken leg of a robin. Really? Now I like robins as well as the next guy, but I’ll bet the money spent on that operation could have bought real guns for a few of their “Bobbies” to carry instead of just nightsticks! If only the Brits’ put as much effort into finding a new phrase to replace “Bloody Hell!”

Some of the things they rescue on the shows are huge boa constrictors and pythons that have evidently been turned loose by disenchanted owners who possibly awoke one morning to find the beast wrapped around one of their body parts, prepping them as a snack. They bag them and take them back to their rehab center, where they weigh, measure and check them over to assure they are healthy. Now I’m a snake guy and snakes don’t bother me, but if I came across a snake like that, the rescuers would find it VERY unhealthy when I delivered it. And then there’s the question of what to do with them. Unless they plan to UPS them back to Africa where they belong, they can’t just turn them loose in the neighbor’s hayfield. I wonder if British homeless shelters accept snake meat.

Then there are the badgers. The British version of a badger looks slightly different than ours, and they don’t seem to be mean at all, but they’re everywhere! Not an episode of the show goes by that they don’t scoop up a badger from someone’s flower garden. They have an entire commune of badgers back at their facility that will eventually be released back into the wild. If word ever got out that I caught and released a badger in these parts, I’d be the one needing rehab! And heaven forbid one of them should appear a little sickly; if so, it’s all hands on deck and the animal ER springs to life!  And if one of the little beggars happens to expire on their watch, it’s Katie-bar-the-door and the whole staff appears to need grief counseling. I’ve come to wonder if they’ll shed as many tears at their “mum’s” passing.
 
A couple years back the North American Falconry Association (NAFA) held its annual convention in Hutchinson, KS.  Amongst all the exotic birds of prey from all around the world sat Bob the Turkey Vulture. Now Bob was regal in his own way, but setting there on his perch with his wings all fanned out, he looked like Goofy in a room full of Snow Whites. Bob’s story begins with falconers Mario and Brandi Nickerson from Ft. Worth, TX who also run Nature’s Edge Wildlife Rescue, specializing in rescuing (there’s that word again) reptiles and birds of prey. Some years back they got some calls about an errant buzzard in town, and one evening they were told the thing was waltzing around in the middle of the football field while practice was in session. Can you imagine; to a football field full of city boys that must have seemed like the stone gargoyle had come down from the front of the court house. The local animal control people were afraid to approach Bob, probably fearing he was Dracula in disguise and would pounce on them for a snack.  When they arrived, Bob was on the roof of the house next door, so they retrieved a dead squirrel found stuck in the fence and tossed it near the house. Bob unceremoniously flew on down and began gnawing on their offering. With tarps, nets, an open pet crate at the ready and EMT’s on standby they surrounded ole’ Bob, expecting a rodeo, but he again called their bluff and simply waddled into the crate with his treat in his mouth.

Back at the Nickerson’s home, the crate containing Bob was put temporarily in their kitchen till they could figure out Bob’s story. Maybe a vulture in your kitchen is the Texas equivalent of a garbage disposal? I’m thinkin’ that to the British wildlife “rescuers,” having a buzzard in your kitchen would put you right up there on a pedestal with the Queen mum herself. Anyway, Brandi said that the next morning when the cage door was opened and she stood there with Bob’s breakfast (one can only guess what that might have been) he charged out the door and across the kitchen aggressively for his hand-out. Long-story-short, they were pretty sure that given Bob’s reaction to humans and other physical characteristics they saw, he had been raised by humans and recently turned loose to fend for himself. I’m not sure what someone was thinking when they took in a turkey vulture chick as a pet. Did they not consider that one day it would grow into a full-grown buzzard?  Would walking him through the park on a Sunday afternoon get as many girls as a puppy? I suppose you could always fly him like a kite.

The Nickerson’s credentials allow them to keep ole’ Bob for educational purposes which is good. I can only guess what goes through a first grader’s mind when seeing a live turkey vulture close up.  Although not really considered a pet, can you imagine the conversation starter Bob would be?  And would you list him in your profile on an online dating site? “Outdoors loving animal rescue hero with pet turkey vulture looking for gal who likes black and has always wanted a pet buzzard in her kitchen” Anyway, I’m glad ole’ Bob has found a good home, and who knows, maybe he can be trained to start the dishwasher and run the vacuum cleaner once-in-awhile!

Steve can be contacted by email at stevenrgilliland@gmail.com.