Under the Open Sky: Common Creatures, Uncommon Heroes

By Kimberly Mason
For The Chronicle
I was standing in the Cowlitz River at Barrier Dam the other day and I cast out over the water and immediately saw that a gull (just gull, not a seagull, as Chronicle commentary writer Bill Moeller so wisely pointed out last week) was heading straight into my line.
I instinctively jerked my rod, hoping to avoid a collision, but my efforts were futile. I plucked that bird from the air and dropped it into the water, my line firmly wrapped around the critter.

As I reeled in my line and stepped out of the water, I hollered at the angler next to me to step out with me and help me out. (I realize now how bossy I must have sounded, but this was no time for niceties.)
The angler, Ken Twibell of Tacoma, quickly obeyed my command and after dropping his own rod on shore, stepped back into the river to deal with the gull and its dire dilemma.
I, of course, grabbed my camera. And as I held onto my rod with one hand, the other snapped a series of documenting photos.

Courtesy Photo / Jody Vogel. Jody Vogel, Mossyrock, snapped this shot of the rabbit riding on the prow of her kayak to the safety of shore. Vogel pulled the drowning bunny from the waters of Lake Mayfield near the area known as Party Cove.
Kimberly Mason / For The Chronicle. An unhappy young gull takes a bites his rescuer, Ken Twibell of Tacoma, as he untangles the bird from the fishing line wrapped around his wings. The bird was caught on a cast and plucked from the air and had to suffer the indignity of getting reeled in to shore by Chronicle writer Kimberly Mason. Both the gull and his rescuer are fine.

Twibell was able to detangle the gull from my line, but not without incident. The bird wasn’t enjoying the process at all, it seemed, and took his frustrations out on Twibell with a bite or two.
No blood was spilled by either bird or man, however, and the bird flew away afterwards, no worse for wear — although I suspect he is probably a bit wiser.
Twibell, it seems, was just the right man for the job.
“I’m almost embarrassed to tell you how many times I’ve untangled pigeons and gulls,” he said. “I know most people don’t think much of those birds, but I can’t stand to see anything suffer.”
“A while back we untangled an eagle that had been caught up in fishing line,” Twibell said. “There were three of us. We netted it and took it up on shore. One guy held the neck, while the other cut the line. We circled it until it recovered its strength.”

Rabbit Rescue
Jody Vogel, of Mossyrock, had a similar adventure on Lake Mayfield while out kayaking one beautiful sunny morning.
“I had paddled up towards Party Cove,” she said, “the day was so beautiful and I was thinking to myself, ‘Wow, this is the life. Nature is amazing. And look, there’s a river otter swimming …” until I realized that the river otter was a rabbit, and it was drowning.”
Vogel paddled over to the rabbit and tried to lift it out of the water with her paddle, but the rabbit was having none of it.
“I finally decided that I’d have to wait until the rabbit was so worn out that he couldn’t fight me anymore,” Vogel said.
“As he was taking what looked to be his last breath and going under, I scooped him up with my paddle and set him in front of me on the kayak,” she said. “There was no shoreline there; the walls go straight up along the sides, so I had to take him downriver to set him down.”
Vogel said there was a foot of mud between the water’s edge and solid ground, but she struggled through the mud with the rabbit wrapped in her jacket.
“He was pretty worn out and I was worried that I had rescued him just so he could become an eagle’s breakfast, so I found a sheltered spot to set him down and watch him for a while,” she said.
Afterwards, as she related her rabbit tale to a friend, she said he asked her why she would rescue a silly bunny — there are so many of them.

Gratitude for Heroes
Whether it’s a common gull or a majestic eagle, a sleek river otter or a rascally rabbit, all creatures have value. I am grateful for those outdoor adventurers like Twibell and Vogel, who take care enough about the common creatures to take the time and the risk to save them from harm.

Kimberly Mason is a freelance writer and photojournalist. Visit her website at almostdailynews.com, find her on Facebook (Kimberly Mason — The Chronicle), call 269-5017 or email kim@almostdailynews.com.