So to recap: this lovely hawk showed up in our backyard a few days ago. Clearly, something was wrong because the hawk was standing on the ground and neither flew away nor attacked when my curious pugs were barking at it. Not knowing what to do, I brought all of the pets indoors and kept an eye on the hawk. I also took to Facebook and through the wonders of social networking got advice from a bona fide licensed wildlife rescuer about how to proceed.
My husband and I were thinking that if the hawk was still hanging out under the Harry Lauder’s Walking Stick shrub in our backyard in the morning, we’d see about somehow getting it to a nearby wildlife rescue center. The center was closed for the day and didn’t open until the next morning. But the wildlife rescuer we got in touch with via Facebook said that it was imperative for us to get the hawk into some sort of box or crate, that the hawk was too vulnerable to predators and that it wasn’t safe to leave it out all night.
A). We received this advice at midnight.
B). Uh, how do you safely capture a hawk, exactly????
Luckily my husband is a patient man and was game to attempt a midnight hawk capture by flashlight. Worried about the hawk’s impressive talons and surely sharp beak, we hastily geared up in the closest we could come up with to “safety suits”. There were hats, winter coats, and multiple gloves involved in this. We surely looked ridiculous and it’s probably best that our efforts happened under the cover of night!
We had read online and then been assured by our expert that throwing a quilt or towel over an ill or injured hawk would lead to said hawk flopping over onto its back and presenting its talons as a last ditch attempt to protect itself. Then you’d just have sort of pick up the quilt/hawk bundle and put it in a box or whatnot. We got out one of our dog crates, an old quilt, and a long pole. We used the pole to shepherd the hawk out from under the shrub where it had taken refuge. Once it was more out in the open we draped the quilt over it. And wouldn’t you know, it actually worked! The hawk flopped right onto its back and we were easily able to pick it up and put it into the crate. We then covered the crate with the quilt and put it in our barn so the hawk would have some peace and quiet.
During the whole watching/capturing process, we took to referring to the hawk as “Freddie” since that could be short for either Fredrik or Fredrika.We put some water in the crate with the hawk. I wanted to include some kind of food too, but worries of accidentally poisoning it through ignorant good intentions made me stop with just the water. In the morning, I loaded Freddie into my car and off we went to the Ohio Wildlife Center.
A non-profit group that rehabilitates injured wildlife and does a lot of educational outreach, the folks at the Ohio Wildlife Center were great. They confirmed that Freddie was a juvenile Red-tailed Hawk and added that she was a female. After examining her, they shared that she didn’t have anything broken. She was, however, severely malnourished and underweight. They couldn’t say if something happened to her parent, or if the drought was making prey more scarce, or what exactly had led to her being so underweight. Another particularly nasty culprit could be the West Nile virus. (That would be bad, West Nile has decimated local avian populations in the past few years.) First they have to see if she survives long enough to put on some much-needed weight, then they’ll do some tests and go from there.
Hopefully the specialists at the Ohio Wildlife Center will be able to rehabilitate Freddie and she will make it. I hope she’ll get better and will be able to be released back into the wild once more. Although this has been a fascinating experience, I really much prefer to see hawks circling overhead, not sitting sick in a crate in my barn. The center will update us on the hawk’s status, although it may be months before we hear something about Freddie’s fate.
I don’t mean to seem to sound like some kind of wacko do-gooder with all of this. I realize that nature is often harsh and unforgiving, and that death is part of life. I am aware that even though we were calling the hawk “Freddie”, she is a wild animal and not a pet. And I know some people might believe that maybe we should have left the hawk to her fate and let nature run its course. Which I do understand, and that is an issue I weighed and thought about before taking any action. Ultimately, I felt that wildlife has to try and survive under intrusive, bizarre, man-made conditions and has to try to cope with man-made problems, and that I was okay with trying to do a little something to help balance things out a bit.
As I mentioned earlier, the Ohio Wildlife Center is a non-profit group that operates strictly on donations. It costs about $500 to rehabilitate a sick or injured hawk or owl so that they can be returned to the wild. If you’re interested in learning more about the Ohio Wildlife Center or in maybe making a donation to them, here is a link to their webpage: http://www.ohiowildlifecenter.org/index.cfm.