BOOKS: Conversations With An Eagle & Raven’s End

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, January/February 2004:

With An Eagle
by Brenda Cox
Greystone Books
(c/o Douglas & McIntyre Ltd.,
2323 Quebec St., Suite 201, Vancouver, B.C., Canada V5T 4S7), 2003.
288 pages, hardcover. $22.95.

Brenda Cox begins her memoir with her school days, when she
felt more comfortable in her own company and with the animals she
encountered on long walks in the countryside than with classmates.
She recalls visiting a lake with a new girlfriend from school.
They met some boys who took them out in a boat. The driver
headed recklessly straight toward a family of ducks. Cox screamed at
him and leaped from the boat to save the ducks.
She volunteered at O.W.L, a rehabilitation center catering
to birds of prey. Excelling at her work, she rose quickly to the
position of supervisor. At the rehab center she developed a close
relationship with Ichabod, a female bald eagle. So imprinted upon
her did Ichabod become that eventually he would not allow anyone else
into her cage. Cox became the only volunteer able to feed her and
clean her enclosure.
As years passed, pressure mounted at the center for Ichabod
to be removed. The center needed her cage for rehabilitation work,
and unless Ichabod could serve some useful purpose, she would have
to find a new home or be killed.
To try to save Ichabod, Cox talked the center directors into
allowing her to train the eagle. Cox undertook the extraordinarily
difficult task of using falconry techniques to make Ichabod
manageable, and thereby suitable for use in education and promotion.
Eventually, after many dangerous incidents, Cox trained
Ichabod to fly to her arm. Her strenuous efforts to save the bird’s
life are related in terms that reveal her great love and respect for
Ichabod, who gave Cox’s life meaning in their years together.
There was a constant power struggle between Ichabod and Cox,
continuing until the death of the bird. Ichabod exhibited a
startling range of moods and emotions, possibly accentuated by
captivity, to the extent that each time Cox visited her, she did not
know what to expect. Never did Ichabod lose her predatory instincts,
nor her urge to dominate.
Most conservationists would dismiss keeping an unreleasable
bird alive in captivity as pointless and therefore a worthless
exercise. Cox, however, believed Ichabod should be judged not for
her value to humans, but rather for her own sake.
Managing a wildlife rehab center and sanctuary for birds of
prey, with experience in handling and releasing large eagles, I
found Cox’s experiences were similar to my own. Like Cox, I believe
that all sentient creatures have a right to live, regardless of what
value conservationists may place upon them.
–Beverley Pervan


Raven’s End
by Ben Gadd
Sierra Club Books
(85 2nd St., San Francisco CA 94105), 2003. 360 pages, hardcover. $ 24.95.

Ben Gadd is a naturalist and guide whose descriptions of the
natural history and mountain scenery of the Canadian Rockies around
his home near Banff National Park are breathtakingly vivid. His
delightful book is written on two levels.
At one level it is a children’s fairy tale about the
adventures of Colin CC, a raven suffering from amnesia. Accepted
into the Raven’s End flock by the variety of characters who comprise
it, Colin CC finds himself compelled to embark upon a voyage of
self-discovery. His antagonist is the cunning, cannibalistic
Zygadena, the epitome of evil, who lives nearby and preys upon
members of the Raven’s End flock.
At a different level Raven’s End is a philosophical look at
the meaning of life and the purpose of existence, offering a bird’s
eye view of the human race.
These two levels come together unexpectedly in a clever twist
toward the tail of the story.
The adventures of the Raven’s End flock include coping with
most of the hardships faced by animals in the wild. Wolf kills keep
the flock alive in winter, a reminder of the interdependence of
A book like this stimulates the reader’s compassion for wild
creatures and broadens understanding of the fragility of their lives.
–Chris Mercer & Bev Pervan

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