Injured hawk rescued along roadside

Don Butcher has been a motor route carrier in Tucker County for The Inter-Mountain the past seven years. In his travels, he has witnessed many things, but an unusual sight caused him to pause one day in December.

“I was driving down Route 38, outside of Parsons,” Butcher said. “Crews were out cutting back trees on the road following the big storm. I saw a huge bird sitting about a foot back from the road.”

Butcher said he was in a line of traffic, but he stopped to see the bird.

“I pulled off in a wide spot and parked,” he said. “When I walked back, the bird was still sitting in the same spot. Two women in a Jeep also stopped and they said the bird had been sitting there most of the day.”

Butcher said he took his coat out of his car and approached the bird, which did not try to fly away. He said the bird watched him as he wrapped it in his coat and put it in his car.

“As I was driving down the road, I couldn’t help thinking if (the bird) takes off in this car, I am in trouble,” Butcher said with a laugh. “I got the bird home and put it in my garage and began making calls to find someone to help it.”

Because he knew nothing about the care of birds, Butcher said he called the state Department of Natural Resources and the U.S. Forest Service. A Forest Service representative told Butcher he knew a lady who works with large birds and called him back with her cell phone number.

Jo Santiago, director of Flying Higher LLC, spoke with Butcher. Santiago is well-known throughout the state when it comes to raptors, or birds of prey.

“She was really excited as I told her all about the bird,” Butcher said. “She told me to put the bird in a box with newspaper on the bottom, and holes cut in the box. She said she was sending someone to pick it up.

“When we went out to the garage and saw the bird, all I could think was it is the prettiest bird I had ever seen,” Butcher said. The DNR’s Jim Fregonara came and took the bird to Santiago.

Santiago performed a preliminary exam of the bird and found no broken bones. She said the bird was a red shouldered hawk, and that its left foot was slightly swollen and one of its primary feathers was dangling.

“I think the bird was probably hit by a car,” Santiago said. She felt the bird’s chest and her breast tissue was very rounded, which indicates a “high (physical) condition,” a sign the bird had not been down very long. Santiago said the bird was the largest red shouldered hawk she had every seen.

“She is a large bird, weighing two pounds,” Santiago said.

Next, Santiago called Morgantown veterinarian Dr. Jessie Fallon, and made arrangements for the bird to be transferred to Morgantown. She said she sent email to Butcher, giving him information about the bird and its condition. Santiago said she sends this information to people who care enough to make sure the birds get care.

“She emailed me back that the bird’s foot was swollen, and the vet in Morgantown would check the bird over and check its blood for lead,” Butcher said. “Now the bird is eating on its own and getting stronger every day. It will be released near the place where it was found.”

Santiago said birds of prey are like Spartan soldiers; they do not show pain or weakness and are amazingly resilient.

“If you find a bird of prey that has been injured, put a blanket or coat over the bird,” she said. “I suggest wearing gloves and eye protection if possible, because the bird does not understand and may try to fight back. It is very important to secure the legs because the talons can inflict injury.”

Santiago recommends getting help immediately because injured birds need specialized care.

“Put the bird in a box, with newspaper on the bottom,” she said. “Create air holes in the box and keep it in a very quiet spot. Avoid looking at the bird because it over-stresses the birds and can cause greater harm.”

Butcher said he is excited to see the hawk returned to its habitat.

“My wife Monnah and I are going to watch the bird be returned to the wild,” he said. “I want to be there to see it take off.”