Guest post: Do a good turn daily

Guest post by Eliana Bookbinder.

At around 6 pm on Sunday June 26th, I was told that a hawk was down along the Moore Trail between Camp Marriott and Camp PMI, two of the camps on the Goshen Scout Reservation. I was off duty, but as head of the Marriott Ecology Area, I went to check on it and saw that it was not a hawk, but rather a juvenile bald eagle, hopping around on the ground covered in flies. The adult eagles were nowhere to be seen.

After about twenty minutes of texting and calls, Matt Anderson, the Director of Camp Marriott, told me just to leave the eagle there and that doing so was not a violation the Scout law (even the helpful, kind, and reverent bits, and the outdoor code to be conservation-minded), and I was not allowed to call a wildlife rehabilitation center or transport it to a wildlife veterinarian. Apparently this was because Mike Jolly, the camp superintendent, wanted to wait until a game warden could be called the next morning. Sadly game wardens don’t work on weekends (although I did try calling them, just in case). I knew that if I left the eagle out overnight that it would at best die of exposure and at worst get eaten alive by raccoons.

I checked the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service website, which recommends in this situation calling a wildlife rehabilitation center. So I disobeyed Matt and called the Wildlife Center of Virginia. The on-call veterinarian told me if I could capture the eagle safely to bring it there as soon as possible. Using towels my brother and I picked up the eagle, put it in a large Tupperware container, and started driving to the Wildlife Center. We knew we were disobeying but neither of us could leave this animal out to die.

About half way to the Wildlife Center, Matt Anderson called me and asked if I’d done it. I said yes, and he told me he might have to fire me, and I said it was worth it.

Once we got to the Wildlife Center a vet took the eagle and started assessing it. Sadly it had to be put down because it had multiple broken bones in its wing.

When we returned to camp Matt called us into his office, along with the assistant camp director. They repeatedly asked us whether we really wanted to work here, which was odd because this is my seventh summer and people don’t usually come back for that many years with a possible herniated disk if they don’t want to work here. Up until today I considered the Camp Marriott staff to be my family and the Goshen Scout Reservation to be my home. Matt also said that if we had been caught we would have endangered the reputation of the BSA and possibly gotten them fined. (Not true.)

This morning after they had us work for several hours, we met with Matt, Phil Barbash (the Goshen Scout Reservation Director), and Mike Jolly. After saying we broke federal law (which we almost certainly did not) Matt fired us for disobeying his orders. While we gathered our stuff Matt told Jeremy that “we are here to cater to the scouts’ needs, not the wildlife.” This also made no sense as we had done this on our own time.

The Boy Scouts of America has a law, an oath, a motto, a slogan, and an outdoor code. In that order, they are:

A Scout is trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, and reverent.

On my honor I will do my best to do my duty to God and my country and to obey the Scout Law; to help other people at all times; to keep myself physically strong, mentally awake, and morally straight.

Be prepared.

Do a good turn daily.

As an American, I will do my best to –

  • Be clean in my outdoor manners
  •  Be careful with fire
  • Be considerate in the outdoors, and
  •  Be conservation minded.

Not taking this injured bird to an appropriate medical facility would have violated many parts of these statements. Nor could I disobey my own ethical and moral guidelines and allow a bald eagle, the symbol of our country and the highest rank in Boy Scouts, to die of shock or be eaten alive by predators.

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