The best day

I can’t believe it’s almost here—my favourite day of the year.  Next Friday marks the winter solstice and I can hardly wait for all that it entails.  No, I don’t plan to be dancing naked around a fire pit.  And I am certainly not going to be sacrificing any small animals (or large ones for that matter.)

I just love the solstice because it’s when the days begin to lengthen again.  Of course, that means December 22 will be the shortest day of the year, which makes it a sad little day.  So maybe it’s not my favourite after all.  June 21 is the longest day of the year, which is definitely my favourite.  Except that it is a bittersweet day because starting then, the days get progressively shorter, which is bad.  I love those long, hot days.

Aside from the fact that it’s a bit cooler, the shorter days also bring some relief from the deluge of baby birds and mammals that we see all spring, summer, and fall.  Peace River Wildlife Center’s census is lower right now.  We have a lot fewer babies at this time of year, because most species have stopped breeding.  The mourning doves, rats, rabbits, and raccoons never stop.

Sunset Celebration revelry
Sunset Celebration revelry

We are seeing an increase in predator/prey interactions due to the influx of migratory birds.  As they fly into and through the area, the hawks are hungry and naturally take advantage of the smaller birds and mammals upon which they prey.  This is the circle of life, and we try not to get involved unless it’s necessary.

We generally ask people not to intercede if they observe a wild predator (hawk, snake, bobcat, etc.) stalking or eating its natural prey (mice, rabbits, songbirds, etc.)  Quite often if this meal is interrupted and the injured prey brought to PRWC, the injured animal will die anyway.  And the predator must find, stalk, and kill another animal or starve to death.  It’s a vicious cycle, but one that is necessary for all living creatures.

There is a remarkable increase in the number of HBC’s at this time of year (that’s Hit By Car in hip rehabber lingo.)  I’m not sure why we have to use different terms than the human medical community, in which MVA or Motor Vehicle Accident was the preferred term when I was working in the laboratory.  I suppose one of the biggest differences is that the humans are generally inside the vehicle during one of these unfortunate encounters and the animals are generally on the outside, bouncing off of the fender or tire.  With the substantial seasonal increase in our local population there are a lot more vehicles on the road and a concomitant increase in animals being hit and injured by them.

Charles John's Sunset Celebration pic
Charles John’s Sunset Celebration pic

Be careful out there on the roads, especially at this time of year.  These are the times of short days and some pretty short fuses—jockeying for the last parking spot at the mall, trying to make the light before it turns red, getting to your favourite restaurant before happy hour is over.  Drive gently, pay attention to each other (and the wildlife that was here before you), be polite—and for heaven’s sake, please do the speed limit.  Not 15 mph under the speed limit.  Some of us have jobs to get to, patients to care for, and don’t want to miss happy hour!

Speaking of happy hours, PRWC will be hosting our Sunset Celebrations the second Friday of each month starting in December, with two additional hours to be happy.  From 4 to 6 p.m. this Friday, Dec. 14, PRWC will remain open later for people to visit their favourite residents, mingle with neighbors, and see the birds in a whole new light.  Won’t you join us?

by- Robin Jenkins, DVM