Real-Life Horror: Wildlife Welfare in Kansas

Note: This post contains graphic images and text regarding animals and wildlife.

I knew that moving to a small town in a red state would be a challenge for this leftist, liberal, environmentalist.

But as I’m pretty dedicated, I would at least try to work towards change, even in my local community.

I’ll sum up the recent, and preliminary, events that have lead up to the posting of this blog entry, and to my letter-writing actions.

I was leaving town and I spotted an injured owl on the side of the highway. It was standing upright, and when I pulled off and got out of my car, it turned its head and looked straight at me. Although I have worked in both pet shelters and in a wildlife rehab and rehabilitation center, I was currently not licensed to handle wildlife in the state of Kansas, I also did not have the proper equipment to handle large birds like owls. I could not tell what kind of owl it was,  from this distance, but it looked like a Spotted Owl. (Feel free to help ID the owl if you know what sort of owl it is.)

Owl1

When the big trucks sped past (they barrel through on this highway, going way over the speed limit), it would be buffeted and flap its wings to try to stay in place. Once it was briefly airborne so I did get a good luck at its feet. It did not look like it had any broken wings or legs.

I called animal control. I got the dispatch as it was a Sunday.

They told me that Animal Control/Law Enforcement could not act on behalf on wildlife. As I understood what they told me, they were not allowed to rescue/handle wildlife, or come to its assistance, or take any action involving the owl.

(Just as an aside, a local animal control officer told me even more recently that “it was impossible for feral cats to be socialized”. Talk about misinformation persisting in the branches of local law enforcement, and being passed around to the general public! *head bap*)

Dispatch/a law enforcement officer told me this, and that they had put in a call to the warden and it was up to them to respond (or not). They told me nothing more could be done, and that I should leave. (I was pulled over on the side of the highway.)

I pulled out, but only to get the mile marker or a more exact location as to where I was, to add to the report.

When I circled back around, I saw the police officer pull over to the side of the road. I thought this meant the warden was on the way and the local law enforcement officer was merely watching over the owl while the warden was to arrive.

Remember, they told me that the law enforcement/animal control officers could do nothing for the owl. Again, Dispatch told me they were not allowed to intervene in the owl’s fate, by law.

I considered pulling over, but was confident that help was coming for the owl.

This was a mistake I will forever regret.

When I returned to town, I circled back around to check on the owl.

I found the owl’s body, very close to where I had last seen it. It was mangled and flattened and I remember thinking “It looks like it was run over.”.

I called the dispatch again, and they were still telling me that the law enforcement couldn’t have done anything in regards to the owl. I told them, between sobs, that I was not going to let this rest until I got justice for this owl. That it was terrible that they just left the owl there to suffer (temps that day got up to 100 degrees Fahrenheit) and demise by being run over. I was going to do everything in my power to make sure that this owl’s death wasn’t for naught. I started a letter writing campaign. I sent a letter that included a relation of the events of that day, and a request to have a wildlife rehab organization in place to deal with injured wildlife, and community education programs to help raise awareness about injured wildlife, among other items.

I sent the letter to the following people/organizations. The Pratt Tribune office was not accessible by mail, as the cc’d letter I sent to the editor was returned.

  • Pratt Operations Office/Kansas Wildlife, Parks, and Tourism
  • Office of the Secretary/Kansas Wildlife, Parks, and Tourism
  • Governor Laura Kelly
  • Wildlife, Parks, and Tourism Commissioners Lauren Queal Sill, Aaron Rider, Gerald W. Lauber, Emerick Cross, Warren Gfeller, Gary Hayzlett, and Troy Sporer.
  • Jennifer Stultz, Pratt Tribune Editor

I only heard back from one individual, (so far) a lead official from the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks.

Here’s the scan of the letter. Please read the letter and then the points/questions I raise after the letter.

KDWP Letter Scan

  • I was told multiple times that local law enforcement could not get involved with the owl in any way. Again, they were very insistent that they were not permitted by law to intervene in the case of this injured owl, and that nothing could be done. That it would be illegal for them. That the only thing I could (and should) do was leave the area. Not once was I told that “local law enforcement may take action in our stead” as the parks official that wrote this letter here states. It was very firmly stated to the opposite by the dispatch. So why did the officer act as he did, outside of the “law” dispatch lectured me about, and kill the owl? Why did Dispatch, then, and the officer that responded to my call, state they weren’t able to do anything about the owl, and then have an officer arrive on the scene and kill the owl? Who gave that deputy permission in between the time I spoke to them and to Dispatch, and the time which the owl was killed? (I do not know whether the Sheriff’s Office vehicle I saw arrive on the scene was the one that killed the owl. I did not witness the actual killing of the owl, just the aftermath.)
  • If the deputy was not allowed to work with wildlife in any way, I have to wonder if they even had the training to assess injured wildlife. How, then, was this deputy able to “determine the owl’s injuries were beyond available treatment options”? Plus, there is no mention of the treatment options that were available to help the owl in the parks official’s letter.
  • Also, from my conclusion on the scene, the animal had been run over in the same area it had been the last time I saw it. It was far enough over on the side of the road, that it had to be deliberately run over, if so.  Are the wardens also permitted to dispatch injured wildlife by running over them with vehicles, if that is what happened?
  • If the owl hadn’t been run over, how was it killed? The letter I received does not state how the owl was “dispatched” by the deputy in question.

I included these questions and points, and pressed for reform in regards to wildlife in my town and the surrounding area/Kansas in general. in a letter to Secretary Deb Haaland, and cc’d to the following organizations:

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
National Park Service
Bureau of Land Management
Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement
Sierra Club
The Nature Conservancy/Nature Conservancy Magazine
World Wildlife Fund
National Wildlife Federation
National Audubon Society
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals

From the date this blog entry was posted, I’ve only received one more response (from the cc’d group on the second letter). This was from a membership correspondent with the PETA Foundation. (Here’s a direct link, should you want to support them: https://www.peta.org/.)

Peta Response Letter

My next step, after the second round of letters went out (in which I included a copy of my original letter, the response from the top official at the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks, and the second letter), was to post up about it on this blog.

I failed to get the owl the help I had promised I would, and I feel so much guilt about it.

And, even though this is my writer blog, I could at least try to get justice for animals, and advocate for better treatment of wildlife in my current home state.

I can’t get the way the owl turned and looked at me out of my head, even as I write this blog. It was so majestic and haunting.

And I was devastated to find the owl, mangled and murdered, when I returned to the scene.

I’m so, so sorry, Owl, that you have to live in a world with us.

~~~

Please reach out if you have any more tips on how to advocate for wildlife both locally, and nationally. I appreciate you sharing your thoughts on this heart-breaking situation.

29 thoughts on “Real-Life Horror: Wildlife Welfare in Kansas

  1. Wow, I’m so sorry Willow you witnessed this but so glad someone with your heart was there to advocate for change. Perhaps a well worded policy will be put in place, so people know what to do when this happens again. Unfortunately, this is how government has been run, each office blaming the other, no one taking responsibility. It may well have been that the owl was beyond recovery, but to leave it, or to run it over, was a heartless gutless act. Someone should have given it a more dignified ending and had the brains to remove it from public view.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I understand, and feel for, your frustration with the system and sorrow at the owl’s sad fate. I’m in the UK and thankfully the response is much more positive here for injured wildlife. I hope your letters have some impact.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Lulu: “This is such a sad story! But it’s not your fault! At least you cared enough to try to get the owl some help. The state and the people who run it let you and the owl down.”
    Chaplin: “This reminds me of our Saga of the Possibly Rabid Skunk, which is before our time, but Dennis told us about it. Another example of state officials passing the buck and no one being willing to get involved. And that was in California!”
    https://dennisthevizsla.com/2009/12/06/we-interrupt-the-sunday-awards-and-meme-show-to-bring-you-the-saga-of-the-possibly-rabid-skunk/

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I am really touched by your comments. Thank you so much for your furry support, Lulu and Chaplin. It’s so frustrating when they’re like “Don’t do anything” but then they don’t do their jobs. I’m dealing with a separate issue with the Pratt Animal Control right now, but which also seems to be indicative of a similar failing of the system in place.

      Like

  4. Dee

    I’m so sorry about that poor owl. I always keep towels and a cardboard box in the back of my car just in case I find myself in that same situation as you were in. It’s such a helpless feeling. But you did everything within your power to save that owl. And, because of your letters, you have brought more awareness to the issues and the slow wheels of change can begin to turn.
    I’m very proud of you.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Way to go, Willow! As per PETA’s letter – I’m sure your actions will have far-reaching consequences and maybe the next owl will get the help it needs instead of being killed. I’m an Avaaz member and I see how various petitions and letters, properly publicized, can have a tremendous impact.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. This is so sad. Not just for the owl, but it indicates how callous and thoughtless our human ‘civilization’ is. I grieve for humanity; unless we change our ways, the sooner we eradicate ourselves, the better.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I’m another one from UK, I’m afraid! I can’t say such a thing would never happen here, but it would be rare to find a situation where no-one would mount a rescue. The animal charities will come out at almost any time if called, and the map is littered with rescue hospitals ready to administer aid. So sad for the owl, and for you, because it was clearly an experience you have found difficult to forget.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. gwengrant

    So sorry about your owl. Surely someone will be moved by your story and act? Are there no private citizens who have small clinics set up for owls and other wildlife?
    More power to your elbow in your efforts.
    Gwen.

    Liked by 1 person

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