practice makes perfect
It's not a skill they teach you, but you learn it quickly.
You approach the elk, which has usually given up on struggling and trying to rise by the time you're within ten meters. Instead she is glaring at you, her teeth clacking in the only open threat she has left. Occassionally throwing out a bark that literally makes you jump. You go to stand by her rump, forcing her to twist her neck at an awkward angle to keep her eyes on you. This makes the killing shot you want at the base of the skull impossible to hit, but that will come. The whites of her eyes show as she strains to keep this threat in sight.
You avoid bumping her with your feet, and resist the urge to reach down and caress her. An ungulate species, an elk will take any kind of touching as a threat, a source of fear.
You raise the firearm and point it at where your target will soon be, only a couple feet away. And you wait.
You talk to her all this time, in low gentle tones. Making no lies about how you're here to help. Telling no lies about how it is all going to be better.
Because it isn't.
With you at her back, she simply cannot keep her neck twisted to keep you in view. Perhaps it is fatigue, perhaps it is the mellow voice. But soon, never more than after 20-30 seconds, she turns her head forward again, her eyes blinking back to normal. Baring the nape of her neck to you.
And then you pull the trigger.
She's not supposed to be here.
Not alive, anyway.
The herds left this country almost two weeks ago. The mercy missions to find and humanely kill her kin who were suffering from this affliction ended a week ago. The task I had given myself on Saturday was supposed to be just biological. Locate, map and categorize the losses. To search a corner of the winter range where no one yet had looked.
The instant I saw that reddish-brown hump peeking out of the blue-green sage, something inside of me knew.
This one's still alive.
The deep furrows in the soft dirt, mixed with elk droppings, showed she had drug herself down over the crest of the ridge, a good ten meters out of the sun, into the tall sage where the spring warmth hadn't yet melted all the snow. Her thirst driving that powerful instinct to stay alive.
But that was some time ago. Now her snow is gone. Been gone for days, the ground dry beneath her. I know what has to happen, but just the same, I walk around into the taller part of her sage patch where there is still some white, and gather all the snow I can carry.
She lets me within three meters before she starts panicking, so I flip the crystallized snow to her in large balls, gently bouncing them against her right side. The contact startles her, and she quickly bends down to nip the intrusion.
Only to find a frozen drink waiting for her. Which she snatches up and crunches in her teeth, small pieces of ice falling out the sides of her mouth like a kid with their first snowcone. I make two more trips to gather more snow, but she loses more than she eats in the dense sage.
I need a better tool.
Down to the truck I go, finally closing the door on the two heeler sisters who had dutifully returned there upon command when I first spotted the elk. I grab the brand new square-bladed spade from the back, the replacement for the one I discovered missing the day this all began, and return to the elk. Giving her three heaping shovelfuls of cool snow to munch on while I make the phone call.
The vet is as surprised as I that there is a survivor out here. But he and I both know, from the work with their four captives, there is no hope.
But do they want any more fresh tissue samples? This cow is likely to be our last opportunity.
Nope. If they can't learn what they need from what they've got, one more animal's tissues aren't going to make any difference. Not to mention, the urine from the lichen-fed captives is turning pink. The question may be answered soon.
So. No one-day reprieve for my snowcone munching friend.
The little maskless heeler starts bumping me in panic when she sees the boom-stick pulled out of its case. I close the windows tight, turn on the engine and the air conditioning, and lock both doors.
And return to the elk. Who leisurely turns to get another mouthful of snow as I take my position behind her.
And then it is over.
|member of the official Diaryland diaryring: next - prev - random - list - home - Diaryland|
|the trekfans diaryring: next - prev - random - list - home|
|the goldmembers diaryring: next - prev - random - list - home|
|the onlymylife diaryring: next - prev - random - list - home|
|the unquoted diaryring: next - prev - random - list - home|
|the quoted diaryring: next - prev - random - list - home|
|the redheads diaryring: next - prev - random - list - home|