Vulture, Everglades, Florida. Is she really ugly, or is it just her occupation that puts us off?

I saw a vulture this morning, and it was yet another reminder of the season we’re in. Springtime, when many animals are born or hatched, is full of newbies to life. Their inexperience, coupled with small size, means that death seems even more present than usual at this time of year. Seeing young animals behave in ways that often get them killed is so reliable in springtime that I’ve dubbed it “Dumb Bunny Season.” They can’t help it; instinct takes you only so far. In the last 24 hours, I’ve seen a crushed baby turtle, a dead juvenile hognose snake, and a large and ominous chunk of soft rabbit fur. On Facebook, I’ve seen photos of a dead bat and an Eastern milk snake. Driving in a state park this time last year, I narrowly avoided hitting a fawn so young its legs were still wobbly. One May evening three years ago, my son and I held an orphaned wood duckling in our hands as it took its last breath.

But of course, fresh death is not scavengers’ only springtime food. When I lived in Montana, the warming air meant the snow was melting and would soon expose the carcasses of animals that had died since autumn. For me, a reliable sign that winter had once again released its grip was the sight of bald eagles — known more for their dignity than their death-eating — gleefully feeding on a half-thawed deer corpse.

I’ve long since accepted that death — even and perhaps especially of the very young — is inevitable, and that in nature, every loss is someone else’s gain. But I intend never to get to the point where the sight of a tiny crushed turtle doesn’t move me. I think sometimes people forget that you can hold both of those things in tension. They are not inconsistent; you don’t have to choose one or the other. And we shouldn’t. The whole truth contains both.

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2 thoughts on “Spring: The vulture’s busy season

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