The headlines following the discovery of Doctor Raptor’s emaciated body revealed the justice many of the families sought. But for some, it was not enough.
“Animal conservationist Dr. Timmothy Hundley, known as ‘Doctor Raptor,’ found starved to death at his North San Diego County ranch. Dr. Raptor was recently charged for the murder of Bureau of Land Management officials following his lengthy dispute with the agency over keeping protected wildlife on his property.”
Jane Kelly, widow of Doug Kelly, the agency’s State Director, explained her frustration during an interview with a KBSD news anchor.
“Hudley got off easy. I mean, I’m glad he’s dead because that’s what we wanted when we talked with prosecutors about seeking the death penalty. But he took the easy way out.”
“Please accept our condolences, Mrs. Kelly. We know this has been an unspeakable
tragedy for you and the other families. But when you say, ‘got off easy,’ what do you mean? He starved to death.”
“I’m glad he died the way my husband did so he could see how it felt. For a month, Doug had convulsions, and his throat burned each time the food came up until he died from starvation. But I felt Hundley should have heard from us at trial. I never got to tell him how he took everything from me. Plus, by killing himself, he avoided San Quentin.”
Doctor Hundley was head plastic surgeon at North County Hospital in Carlsbad, California, until his termination. It was no surprise to those who worked with him that his love of animals led to his demise. Through the years, he commented to staff about the oppression of animals, and how he liked them more than people. But it wasn’t until his statement following his unsuccessful operation on a mountain lion attack victim, that the hospital let him go.
“The BLM officials should be held accountable for their actions,” he told reporters. “They put down that poor mountain lion for no reason other than it was defending its habitat from human invaders.”
The hospital suspended Doctor Hundley for his insensitivity to the victim. He was defiant during medical board hearings. His termination was swift.
The doctor fled to the rolling, chaparral-coated hills outside of Fallbrook. He bought a ranch from a Y2Ker that was fortified to sustain an isolated existence, and he turned it into a sanctuary.
The first guest at the ranch was a barn owl he found on the highway. It had a broken wing, he suspected from a collision with an automobile. Without the ability to hunt, it was sure to die. He built a large cage for the owl and fed it frozen mice.
His second guest was also a raptor. The great horned owl lost its mate and owlets when a construction company leveled eucalyptus trees for a housing development. The general contractor called authorities to have the owl removed, but Doctor Hundley snuck in at night, captured the owl, and brought it to the ranch.
He continued to collect injured or displaced animals: a baby opossum that became separated from its mother and wandered into a neighborhood; a bobcat cub found fending for itself; rattlesnakes from trailheads when hikers complained; more raptors, including a falcon family that nested too close to a school and was scheduled for removal by Fish and Game.
Law enforcement began receiving calls about a man driving around town with nets and animals in his truck bed. Security tapes from gas stations and construction sites showed the man’s face, easily identifiable due to the publicity of his hospital termination.
“Doctor Raptor,” it was reported, hoarded the protected animals on his ranch. The BLM investigated and determined that he was required by regulations to relinquish the animals to its custody, which lead to a lengthy legal battle.
Doctor Hundley lost. After reading the final court ruling while sitting on his front porch, the doctor gazed to one of the cages. An owl’s head poked out of a hollowed eucalyptus stump where it roosted. Hundley could see the contractions begin. The owl heaved repeatedly, then closed its eyes, stretched its neck up and out, and finally regurgitated the casting from its stomach. One more owl pellet to pick up, he thought.
Hundley packaged the owl pellets in foil to give to the local Boy Scout troop for dissection. Is it painful, he thought, when these things come up the esophagus? He figured it was not, at least for raptors. They had evolved to cough up the fur and bones of prey after digesting the nutrients.
The doctor ground his teeth. How would those BLM bastards like to regurgitate their food? He made his way to his laboratory in the basement of his ranch house.
Doctor Hundley agreed to turn over the animals and be questioned by Doug Kelly and deputy wardens on the ranch. They met in the dining room overlooking the cages and a dried creek bed.
“We appreciate your cooperation, Doctor. We promise the BLM will care for the animals and properly rehabilitate them for release,” Doug said.
“Most of them will never make it on their own,” Doctor Hundley responded.
“We’ll make that determination.”
“Before we continue, Mr. Kelly, if I may . . . Doug, would you and your deputies like some coffee?”
“If it’s not too much trouble,” Doug answered on their behalf.
Doctor Hundley smiled.
In the kitchen, he poured the cups of coffee and then went to the fridge for the odorless, tasteless concoction he created in the basement. He topped each cup off with the last drop of his special mixture. I’ll make my batch later, he thought, when they figure this all out. I’m not spending the rest of my life in a cage.
As he walked back to the dining room with cups in hand, he chuckled and mumbled
under his breath, “And so the starvation begins . . .”
– Michael Carter
Michael Carter is a short fiction and creative nonfiction writer from the Western United States. He’s also a ghostwriter in the legal profession, Space Camp Alum, and volcanic eruption survivor. He enjoys fly fishing and wandering remote wilderness areas with no cell service. You can find him online at michaelcarter.ink and @mcmichaelcarter.