A vibrant functioning wildland

By Fred Hernandez

close vultureThe forest at the foot of Del Monte Park (Area D) is a vibrant, functioning wildland.

On Monday, Oct. 28, I was walking my dog when I noticed movement in my peripheral vision. I turned and saw a huge bird on the ground, about 30 feet away.

I was fascinated and lingered to see what it was. The feathers on its back were dark brown, outlined in a lighter color. It had an ugly red head and a white beak.

Curious, I slowly edged over and the bird retreated, but did not fly away. I saw the partially eaten carcass of a young deer. I retreated slowly and the bird resumed its task, pecking away and eating the carrion.

The thought of a vulture doing its dirty work 40 feet from the nearest house at first repulsed me. It was only 40 feet away from the street where I live.

On my return from the walk, the bird was still eating.

I went online and found that the bird was a turkey vulture – the kind you see slowly circling over the forest, high, high up.

When viewers got too close, the turkey vulture took refuge in the trees until the human had left. Photos by Roberto Gennaro

When viewers got too close, the turkey vulture took refuge in the trees until the human had left. Photos by Roberto Gennaro

In subsequent days, another turkey vulture joined in the carnage.

So I began to think about the proposition. I don’t know how or why the deer died. But the vultures were only doing their jobs: eating dead animals and eliminating possible stench or diseases. For that I was grateful.

It occurred to me that death is part of the circle of life. And the forest is a living recycle circuit. Trees fall and rot. Leaves and pine needles fall and compost. Animals die and are consumed by other animals. I have found coyote carcasses picked clean. I have come across animal bones I cannot identify. I have seen a baby mountain lion there. And there are deer, raccoons, squirrels, owls, acorn woodpeckers, blue jays, ravens, and even the red-shafted flicker, the bird the Ahwahneechee people of Yosemite considered sacred.

But when man interferes with the cycles of nature, the pattern of life, death and regrowth are forever thrown off-balance. For instance, bringing in goats every year to eat any vegetation they can reach results in the disappearance of Monterey pine seedlings.

When machines are brought in to drill water test holes, they ravage the area, crashing through the forest and leaving wide routes of destruction.

This living, breathing forest is what we hope to save from the corporate predators.