Death in the Spring

While we speak of spring as the season of renewal and rebirth, it, like all seasons, brings its share of death. Indeed, newborn animals are among the most fragile and vulnerable creatures on Earth and they succumb to a wide variety of natural and unnatural forces.

Many eggs, for example, never hatch, falling victim to accidents, cold weather, neglectful parents or predators such as crows, snakes and raccoons. Many, if not most, sea turtles never reach the ocean and the death rate among young cottontails is extremely high, thanks to lawnmowers, domestic cats and a host of native carnivores. Insects, emerging from their nymph stage in ponds or beneath the soil, are often snared by swallows and swifts during the first and only flight of their life; many nestlings, on the other hand, never fly, the victims of storms, inattentive parents, predators or even their own siblings. Young herbivores, still hampered by weak and wobbly legs, are common targets for coyotes, wolves and bears.

The overused mantra, "survival of the fittest," does not apply to the very young, whose welfare is more dependent on luck and devoted parents; while natural selection acts over many generations, good genes will not save a newborn from severe weather or determined predators. During their brief lives, these unfortunate victims serve only as a convenient source of food, yet, in the end, are an important cog in nature's cycle of life. Without death, the bountiful life of spring could not flourish.