Thank You, Turkey Vultures

Spring! It’s a lovely time of year, my favorite to be sure. You may be expecting a post about the riot of color arriving…daffodils, tulips, redbuds, magnolias, and crabapple trees. Or maybe you’d like to hear about the cute baby animals.

My friend’s farm has lambs and baby goats, a young calf and nests full of duck eggs yet to hatch. These are miracles for which I am grateful. But, for all these miracles of life to occur, there’s another aspect for which I am grateful.

I’m grateful for the cleanup crews. My dog Harley has been working on this deer carcass all winter. It took that long to get down to this one bone. Well, yeah there may be more out in the woods that will surface as the seasons pass. But maybe the turkey vultures or some other scavenger will deal with those.

And my friend Martha put on her cleanup crew hat and took care of this squirrel carcass herself. Though you’ll often see turkey vultures wheeling across the skies even in Des Moines or even picking at a bit of road kill, she didn’t want to wait for them to take care of this guy.

spring squirrel cleanup and cat suspects

Now the turkey vultures have returned. I’m not sure where they go in the winter. Somewhere warmer than Iowa, where they can smell the dead things. The white tail deer stay all winter–in abundance, and so the deer carcasses along roads are in abundance too.

Turkey vultures are nature’s cleanup crew. Just as the weather is warming, and the carcasses are starting to stink. And the smelly vapor rises from decomposition, the giant birds arrive from whatever warm climate they’ve been working. And they start cleaning up the carcasses of deer, raccoons, skunks and yes, squirrels.

I’ve wondered what it would be like if they didn’t come back to Iowa for the warmer months. Iowa would be such a smelly place, we wouldn’t want to live here. We don’t think much about where our trash goes or how it gets there, but garbage is an important part of modern life for sure.

While we’re all “sheltering in place” or something like it during this pandemic, here are a couple lessons that can broaden your home schooling base. Don’t be afraid to use them for kids older or younger than the designated grade level–

Luckily we humans have cleanup crews that stay all year long! Sanitation workers are among the essential workers as many of us shelter in our homes. The garbage workers and street cleaners get up early every morning and come pick up our garbage, recycling and yard waste. Let’s make sure to give them a wave and say THANKS next time we see them.

Posted by Kyla Cox

Expresses her creativity most dynamically through her connection with Mother Earth, Kyla Cox is a well-known figure in Des Moines’ sustainability movement. Whether you’re talking about urban gardening, permaculture or conservation, Kyla’s name is sure to come up.

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