G(l)imps(e) of Nature

This morning, Mama moose and Baby browsed in the yard for some time. Baby ended up at the back door, searching (not very hard) for a way up the hill.

I couldn’t miss Baby’s gimpy front leg. Long-term, short-term, injury, birth defect…beats me. I just know the calf is limping. Bummer.

It reminds me of a story I think I’ll share.

Once upon a time in April, in a land far, far away called Isla Isabela, 600 miles off the coast of Ecuador, there lives a tiny paraplegic marine iguana.

See how the back legs drag?

Every day, the gimpy iguana treks from the safety of the house rock garden and deck across the beach to the rocky shore to feed on the sea greenery during low tide. All the iguanas, a couple hundred or so, make the trek in a grand, if disorganized and sloppy, parade. There is safety in numbers.

But one day, the gimpy iguana is singled out and captured by a hungry lava gull.

It just so happens that a man is photographing the birds and iguanas and scenery. Catching a hunt and kill is rare for a part-time photographer. It’s a thrill to see nature in action. He understands that nature can be harsh, all animals need to eat, and his job is to watch and record, not interfere.

He snaps a couple of pictures. Through the telephoto lens he watches as the gull drops the iguana and the iguana tries to escape.

Then recognition sets in. The man lives in this house with the rock garden and deck where hundreds of small iguanas live. He knows this iguana. He can identify this one out of the hundreds of nearly-identical iguanas. He’s watched this particular iguana haul itself with two legs across the beach, over the rocks, and up the wall of the house, dragging its belly, hind legs, and tail.

The man doesn’t say a word. He just steps out from behind his tripod and strides purposefully toward the gull. The gull squawks and drags its prey across the rocks. The man gets closer. The gull squawks and snatches at the iguana, trying to get a better hold. The man is only a step away. The gull, flapping, makes one more grab but cannot carry its quarry away as it takes to the air and flees.

The man bends down and scoops up the panting iguana, gently carrying it across the beach to the rock garden at the house. He lays his open palm on a rock. The iguana pulls itself off the hand and disappears into a crevice.

Later, the gimpy iguana emerges. It drags itself to the house wall, stopping for a bite of banana the man has set out. With the strength of just its two front legs, it hoists itself up the wall and over the ledge to the warm dark space beneath the upper deck where dozens of other iguanas are already settled for the night.

The end.

I hope the baby moose just stubbed its toe this morning.

Categories: Alaska

4 replies »

  1. That is a wonderful story! Thank you for sharing it. You told it beautifully.
    Baby moose is adorable, I hope it’s just a stubbed toe, too.
    Nature is magnificent and terrible- awesome in the true meaning of the word.

  2. I hope it just stubbed its toe, too. Love the beautiful images with the story.