Jacob Schor ND, FABNO


January 28, 2019

We have a houseguest named Sadie, a Great Pyrenees mix that normally lives across the alley with our neighbors.  When they leave town, Sadie is content to trot across the alley and take up residence with us.  She and I are just back from a walk around Ferril Lake in City Park. 

It’s been snowing heavily since around 5:30 this morning.  My guess is we have about 8 inches of fresh snow by now.  It’s light Colorado snow, what young snow sports enthusiasts who have recently moved to Colorado from points East might loudly proclaim to be “Blower POW” but in truth, it’s not quite light enough to receive that title.  While it’s light and powdery, it still put up some resistance as we trudged through it.  Luckily Sadie is a big dog and with her plowing the way, we successfully navigated through the neighborhood and down to the lake.

Once in the park, Sadie pointed out every spot where a rabbit might either live or hole up to shelter out of the snow.  Her insistence was such that I found myself debating the exact nature of her attention; was she responding to some deep hunting instinct, thinking of rabbits as prey, or to some mothering instinct that caused concern about the welfare of her rabbits in the storm?

A bald eagle was perched high in a tree on the south side of the lake.  Do eagles hunch their shoulder when cold?  I think this one was not only hunched but drawing its feathers more tightly around itself.  This is only the second eagle I’ve spotted this winter. 

Bald eagle weathers the storm in City Park January 28, 2019

I’ve been on the lookout for eagles for the last month or so in part as a reaction to the park zombies.  That’s the name I’ve given to the City Park’s newest recreational users who now show up on weekends.  This started a month or two back.  On seemingly random days the park is invaded with dozens of people standing here and there, sometimes in small clusters, sometimes alone, all staring fixedly at their phone screens.  Occasionally they slowly ambulate between different locations; it is not actually that their pace is too slow, people often walk slowly in the park, they just lack the normal grace of walkers. They seem to be half-blind or unaware of their surroundings.  If your respective paths are going to cross you had best yield to them, as they don’t seem to notice that you are there.  But as I said, most simply stand in place.  Even their choices in where to stand seem odd.  Most people will step off the pathway when they halt, with a silent but understood ‘let me get out of the way.’  The zombie people appear to have been sucked into a trance losing all connection with the outside world.  They are mostly young adults, perhaps late 20s or early 30s.  There is something different about them, not quite like they are from Colorado… their skin is a bit paler, they are, what the politically correct would call, “possessing elevated BMIs”.  The most striking characteristic is their lack of normal sociability.  They don’t respond to a good morning with even a nod or twitch of an eyebrow to acknowledge your existence. 

It wasn’t until Rena was with me that we found out what was going on.  She’s a socially braver soul than I; she walked right up to a cluster of these zombies and asked what they were. 

It turns out there is some sort of Pokemon game that they are playing on their phones.  This is what we are seeing.  Who knew?

The arrival of the pokemon zombies to City Park occurred at the same time as the yearly eagle migration began to pass south through Denver. 

Bald eagles have made a marvelous comeback in Colorado in recent years.  February is the prime time to see them.  The eagle resurgence and the fact that seeing them in the city is almost common now is because of the Endangered Species Act and past success in limiting pesticide usage.

In 2015, Colorado Parks and Wildlife estimated that there were 125 nesting bald eagle pairs in Colorado; this is twice what there were in 2009.  Nationally bald eagle numbers have been increasing by about 12% per year since the early 2000s.  In the 1960s, eagle numbers had dropped quite low; there were fewer than 500 nesting pairs in the entire country. Most of us take this shift in eagle populations as good news.

Yet there are those that do not appreciate this change.   

“Some lawmakers have long argued the Endangered Species Act holds back industries such as drilling and logging.”  U.S. House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Rob Bishop who hopes to invalidate the law is quoted in a 2017 article in the Fort Collins’ newspaper, the Coloradoan

“It has never been used for the rehabilitation of species.  It’s been used for control of the land,” the Utah Republican said. “We’ve missed the entire purpose of the Endangered Species Act. It has been hijacked.” [i]

Being a child of the 1960s, I can’t help but feel lucky whenever I see a living bald eagle, as if something special has just happened to me.  I wonder if this same sort of thrill that City Park zombies feel when they spot an elusive Pokemon creature on their phone screens?  Honestly, I’m not sure what they feel.

[i] https://www.coloradoan.com/story/news/2017/02/03/once-endangered-bald-eagles-now-soaring-colorado/97148984/

A Pokemon eagle. Not quite the same