Visitors to Creamer’s Field couldn’t help but notice a couple of injured cranes in the fields this month, and good heartedly they hoped to save them. But what they learned is that they were witnessing nature taking its course, without any intervention from humans.
“The purpose of the refuge is to allow animals to live and die as they may,” said Creamer’s Field Refuge Manager Ryan Klimstra. “We really appreciate how people are concerned, but we do our best to educate folks that sometimes nature can be harsh.”
The two cranes do not appear to be at the refuge any longer. One had a broken wing. The other appeared to have a broken leg but could still fly. Neither bird has been seen in a couple of days.
“It is unfortunate that these two birds are injured, and we certainly wish them no suffering,” Klimstra said. “However, these individuals could provide a very important meal for a predator or scavenger.”
Anyone who spends significant periods of time at the Creamer’s Migratory Waterfowl Refuge will undoubtedly witness nature in action, Klimstra said. Some of that can occur very close to the parking lot. It’s not always easy to watch.
“Sometimes life on a refuge is not tidy and neat and can reveal the realities of being a wild animal, which can sometimes include having an injury or ailment — as is the case with these two cranes,” he said. “We do not feel that it is necessary to shield the public from these natural cycles as they unfold on the refuge. Injuries and ailments occur naturally in wildlife populations and affect individuals all across Alaska.”
The death of the animal can also benefit other creatures, Klimstra noted.
“The fate of an injured animal, such as a crane, could be the very difference in life or death for young mesocarnivores (red fox, coyote, martens) preparing for their first winter,” he said.
Klimstra said he explains this to callers, even those who disagree with the refuge’s stance. Not everyone who called or wrote letters wanted to save the cranes. One letter writer to the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner just wanted the cranes to be euthanized to relieve their suffering. The refuge rarely intervenes in this way and instead lets the cranes’ survival or demise happen naturally.
“This is exactly the purpose of these wild spaces,” Klimstra said. “The whole wildlife web is much bigger than us.”
Reach columnist/community editor Kris Capps at firstname.lastname@example.org. Call her at the office 459-7546. Follow her on Twitter: @FDNMKris.