A great horned owl silently glided through the forest. The dark morning breeze catches his wing and lifts his body upward. With his wings outward and steady, Norrin raised his head as he watched the ground and tree limbs swiftly pass by. His eyes twitched catching every movement around him. Squirrels, birds, mice, wolves, and deer were all out greeting the pre-dawn morning . Winter ended, and a new generation sprung forth once again. Norrin’s stomach was beckoning and it was time to find a lone field mouse. As he cleared the forest he flapped his wings to gain altitude. The name of the game was stealth and Norrin was a master. Watching the ground, he waited.
“Show me a sign.” He whispered in a low voice.
A small grass blade flicked causing Norrin to spot a small field mouse’s movement. Mice maintained paths under the grass to stay hidden. By surveying, movement could be seen everywhere. Fanning his wing Norrin grabbed more air to decelerate. He rapidly descended while focusing on the movement. His prey hadn’t seen him yet and was still poking from one trail to the next with no worry. To prevent casting a shadow, Norrin tucked himself low to the ground. His target was in sight. Pulling his feet up to his chest, he prepared for the grasp. The ground flew by in a blur as he began to countdown. With a sudden kick he pulled his head up to the sky as he clutched his meal. Flapping his wings to resume a respectable altitude, he headed back to the forest. The mouse kicked and wiggled. With a final squeeze the mouse went limp as he exhaled his last breath.
Norrin noticed a pack of wolves celebrating in their latest harvest. A doe couldn’t keep up with the herd. For Norrin, this was life. He and the wolves kept a balance in the island’s population. For years, the deer have been protesting . They believed the wolves should be banished from the island. The nearest land mass was within swimming distance. The deer believed it to be easier for the remaining wolves to leave rather than force all of the deer to make the journey. Norrin heard stories of a time when balance existed between the two populations. However, the deer fought back protecting the weak and slow. As the years went by, the wolf population dwindled as the deer population grew. Now only two packs of wolves remained. What if the thirteen wolves left? Life might improve for the wolves on the other. Rumor stated the land stretched for miles and food never ended.
Slumber called for Norrin. Landing on his tree’s perch, he devoured his meal then enter his nest. The tree he lived in was an old maple that had a hole perfectly placed over the limb. Inside was roomy considering he only needed it for sleeping. He shuffled around until he found the perfect position. Closing his eyes, he thought of the wolves. He knew they would leave; it was only a matter of time.
Dusk came and Norrin climbed out of his hole. Stretching his wings, he prepared for his first flight of the night; after he finished waking-up. He sat on his perch and listened to the night. Movement was everywhere. Soon Rooleg came by with his head held up high. Two does led the way. Rooleg was a young buck. Smart, cautious, and alert, he never demonstrated his current demeanor.
“Good evening Rooleg.” Norrin called out, letting his friend know he was there.
“Good evening indeed. Have you heard?” Rooleg inquired.
Knowing Norrin woke up minutes ago he knew Norrin couldn’t have heard any news. “Hear what news?” Norrin asked.
“We are free from the wolves oppressions.” Rooleg continued his walk.
An unsettling feeling came over Norrin. He was glad to see his friend wasn’t in danger, however, something inside said this was not right. This created an unbalanced system. There always has to be a balance. He told himself. That was the secret to everything. This was evident when Norrin learnt how to fly, how to land, and how to clutch his prey. Upset the balance and everything falls apart.
The years past, and the deer population prospered. Norrin couldn’t believe it. There was no negative signs from the wolves leaving. On occasions, he made a flight across the water to check how the wolves were doing. Continuing to hunt for the weakest and the slowest, they prospered. Life worked around this unbalanced system. With the wolves gone, island life was copacetic. Would the mice, rabbits, and skunks prosper without him on the island? It was his place to keep order within the population. Right? He watched as his friend Rooleg become a leader within his domain. He tended to five does and each year he produced four to seven fawns. Without the worry of predators, Rooleg could have a large family. Norrin couldn’t see the wrong in raising a large family. Perhaps he was wrong.
Years past, Norrin was now eleven. It had been ten years since the wolves left. Climbing out of his nest he stretched his wings. His bones popped and crackled with old age. Dusk echoed with the sound of leaves rustling. Looking around he seen deer everywhere. He knew each of their names, but never realized there were so many. Rooleg was in the distance. Alone and frail looking, he scraped the ground for food. He flew over to his comrade.
“Good evening Rooleg.” He greeted.
Rooleg looked up keeping his neck low. “We were wrong, you know.”
Surprised by the weak voice of his friend Norrin inspected his friend. Rooleg, a once proud and healthy buck was now a frail and starving deer. Rejected from his herd by younger more competitive bucks, he is now alone and on his own.
“What happened? How and when did this happen?” he inquired.
“We grew too fast. Now, we are over populated. There is not enough vegetation on this island to feed us all. With each passing year we continue to increase our population. Soon our fawns will grow up only to die of starvation. A slow death that make me beg for the wolves to come back.”
There laid the truth. Norrin’s gut feeling was correct. Everything needed balance . He watched in sadness as his friend begged for death. Without the wolves, death would come slow and painful in the form of starvation.