One of our readers, Richard Marczewski, called your Examiner saying he thought he had “something you might find interesting.” The “something” was a raptor chick—alive, alert, but not particularly animated. Since the chick was on the ground, under a large sweet gum tree, the suspicion was that it had fallen from its nest and was, probably, injured. Doing a search for wildlife rehabilitators, a listing for the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources (SCDNR) was selected yielding a listing of rehabilitators in the state. Riverbanks Zoo & Gardens in Columbia was one of the listings. Richard called them and was assured they would indeed take the animal if it made it through the night and was delivered to them.
While there were a number of good options on SCDNR’s list, Riverbanks was well known and Richard decided to take the chick to them the next day. Taking heed of the “if it made it through the night” admonition, and being well aware of the cats, raccoons and opossum in the area, Richard coaxed the chick into a cardboard box and secured it in his garage.
Early Tuesday, accompanied your Examiner, Richard took the chick (about the size of a pigeon) to Riverbanks. It was fairly early, and the usual number of visitors that often are there had not yet arrived. We were directed to the Reception office where the receptionist fielded our request and called for the Raptor Center Zookeeper, who arrived in short order.
Identifying our charge as a “Mississippi Kite,” she proceeded to pick it up, seemingly oblivious to the sharp beak that was being brandished in self defense. Examining the wings, she said there might be a break. The veterinarians would examine the bird, x-rays would probably be taken, and appropriate action would follow. While the possibility existed that nothing could be done, the possibility also existed that treatment would save the bird.
At this point, Richard, having submitted a one page Riverbanks form, and I, the interested observer, took our leave, having done our part. Raptors, all birds of prey, including vultures, owls, hawks, and kites, to mention a few, are strictly protected by state and federal laws. A general description of these protections may be found in a summary by John Brooks of the US Fish and Wildlife Service.
These laws, meant to protect these migratory animals, are not to preclude the actions individuals might take to assist them in their times of need as was the case today.
While not specifically designed to cover the help of an animal, most states, South Carolina included, have “Good Samaritan” legislation protecting people who try to help others in their time of need. Hopefully, the letter of the law would give way to the intent of the law should some overly zealous regulator take exception to what most of us would do in situations like those encountered today with our helpless (excluding the beak) Mississippi Kite.