author, photographer, naturalist, wildlife rehabilitator
 

Growing up in a little southern town, Sallie Reynolds, at around age 4 or 5, used to squeeze herself into a hole in a honeysuckle-covered fence and - look at things. She saw beautiful purple thistles take over her mother's garden, goldfinches gobbling the thistles, and bugs doing what bugs do, so close she would get whiffs of their chemical smells. At night, she would sneak out into the back yard and catch lightning bugs - they smelt funny, too, though it was decades before she learned that insects were the quintessential chemists - and scurry back inside when the Screech Owl wibbled. Her father, a country doctor, took her out one night with a flashlight, and lit up the little bird perched in a pecan tree. "You're afraid of this?" he asked. She never was again. He was not as successful with black snakes, however.

Reynolds went on to educate herself as a naturalist, reading constantly and - looking at things. For some reason, instead of becoming a scientist, she studied art and books and became an editor and writer (she's published poems and short stories and reviews and articles). In New York City, where she worked in a large publishing firm, she explored Central and Riverside Parks with her wolfhound, Molly, in an era when you needed a guardian to go freely about the city, especially after dark. Later, on Long Island, she poked about in boats and explored the magical and alien life along the shores of the Sound. She once found a Sea Potato.

Then in 1988, Reynolds visited California. It was February, and New York was a symphony of howling ice. But in California, irises were blooming! So she moved there as soon as she could. "No more winter," she said to her appalled friends ("Nobody thinks in California!"), and crossed the Great Divide. Here was a whole new world of things to look at.

Reynolds began by exploring the Sierra Nevada, trekking the foothill river canyons and the high valleys with her camera and sometimes (but not too often) a notebook. Once or twice she joined a group, but mostly she went alone. Then1994, a jogger was killed by a mountain lion on a path Reynolds knew well. Trying to understand why an animal that for 100 years was not aggressive toward humans had now killed one, she contacted the Department of Fish and Game, and became, in the process of gathering information, instrumental in getting that lion's surviving cub placed in the Folsom Zoo nearby, where he lives to this day. "This creature - indeed, the whole story -  was peculiarly ours," she said, "that is, of our region. Two mothers collided violently and the offspring of both suffered the consequences. We still - always and ever - have a great deal to learn about our relationships with the other species around us."

Mountain lion track in snow - clearly showing
the characteristic M shape at the top of the
central pad. The knife indicates size.

 

After his rescue, Willow, the mountain lion
cub, lived for some weeks in the home
of Folsom Zoo's head keeper.
He denned up on a bookshelf.

Willow needed treatment for some time, and
was a terror to handle until Reynolds brought
him a toy panda, which he loved. He could
be given his meds as long as the panda
played middleman.

Around this time , she was invited to attend some DFG "mountain lion boot-camp" trips for rangers, and wrote an article outlining the lion attack, the biology of Felis concolor, and the history of its interactions with humans for the Special Mountain Lion issue of Fish & Game's magazine, Outdoor California (Vol. 54, Issue 3)


 

For more than a decade, Reynolds has been a member of Sierra Wildlife Rescue, a licensed wildlife rehabilitation organization, where she has raised orphaned baby birds, encouraged rattlesnakes and raccoons off porches, and specialized in caring for injured raptors - hawks, owls, eagles, vultures. At the same time, she recorded herd behavior among Black-tailed Deer, using her camera as a tool to fast-freeze details or to slowly reveal patterns of animal behavior.

left: A Black-tailed doe allows a Scrub Jay to detick her.

right: A doe adopts a dead herd member's fawn. The fawn was earlier photographed several times with another doe, who was later hit by a car.

below: Training a nonreleasable Red-tailed Hawk to fly to the fist.  Both photos taken by Steven Robello, falconer.

Today Reynolds volunteers at the California Raptor Center in Davis and participates in their off-site presentations to schools and nature centers. She also contributes to the photo records of the hawks and owls in CRC's permanent collection. In her work as a licensed rehabilitator, Reynolds now assesses and trains non-releasable hawks and falcons as "education birds," working with falconers to enhance her understanding and handling of the birds in her care.

She lives with her husband, John Roberts, a painter-writer-mechanic with whom she shares a small farm out in the boonies and various dogs and cats. She also houses an aging Red-tailed Hawk (imprinted on humans and so unreleasable) and a sweet but nervy wing-shot Peregrine Falcon.

She still hikes, now with company or at least a dog, and still spends time just looking at things.