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Red-Tailed Hawk Shot In Carriage Hills

Red-Tailed Hawk that Scott Rashid rehabilitated last summer.

By: Scott Rashid

Being a Bird Rehabilitator, I am often called to rescue an injured or orphaned bird. If the bird is injured, the injury is most often human caused. Birds get stuck in barbed wire fences, crash into windows, get hit by cars etc. I understand those types of injuries and in many cases; I can rehabilitate the birds and release them back to the wild.

The one injury that I find intolerable is when someone shoots a bird of prey. On Sunday, April sixth, I received a call about a large hawk that had a broken wing.

My wife Susan and I arrived at the residence on Pine Meadow Drive in Carriage Hills a little after 4:00 p.m. With the help of the land owner, I found the bird and placed a towel over it and picked up the bleeding bird to see that it had a compound fracture of the ulna and radius bones in the right wing. The ulna and radius bones are the two bones that connect the elbow and the wrist. Yes birds have shoulders, elbows, wrists and even “finger.”

A compound fracture means that the bones are broken and are protruding through the skin being exposed to the air. If the bones are exposed too long, the bone dies and the bird has to be put to sleep.
The vets here in Estes were closed, so I took the bird to the Birds of Prey Foundation in Broomfield. Sunday evening. The following morning, the head of the foundation, Ms. Sigrid Ueblacker took the bird to the Bell Crest Animal Clinic in Colorado Springs; to Dr. Lee Eggelston to have the bird’s wing pined. She travels to Dr. Eggelston, because he is one of the best veterinarians in Colorado that can and does give medical attention to injured birds of prey.

Most birds have hollow bones so when a wing bone is broken as badly as this one was, it has to have an aluminum pin placed within the bone until the bone had healed. In the case of a Red-tailed Hawk, the pin remains in the wing for approximately two weeks before it needs to be removed.

In two weeks or so, Sigrid has to drive back to Colorado Springs from Broomfield to have Dr. Eggleston remove the pin from the bird’s wing. During this time, the bird remains in a small hospital cage that needs to be cleaned every day. The bird eats a rat a day. Each rat costs $4.00.

If the bones have healed properly, the hawk is then moved to a large flight enclosure where it will exercise until it is strong enough to be released back here in Estes.

The injured hawk is an adult male Red-tailed Hawk, meaning that it most likely had a mate and was in the process of either refurbishing its old nest or constructing a new one.

The female Red-tailed Hawk will now search for its mate for several days and even weeks. She will not find her mate this spring, so either another male will take over her partners territory, or she may move on to another males territory, or even worse, not nest this season.

At least with people, when someone ends up in the hospital, their relatives get a phone call so everyone knows what has happened. If the “idiot” that shot this hawk will contact its mate and let her know what has happened, I will be impressed.

I have never understood why someone is so stupid as to shoot a magnificent hawk such as this one.
Red-tailed Hawks and all other birds of prey only do what they are designed to do. We may think it is cruel when they attack and kill a rabbit, but, that is what they are designed to do. If hawks, eagles, owls and falcons didn’t kill we would be over run with mice, voles, rats, rabbits, snakes and other creatures that most people feel are undesirable.

In Estes Park and RMNP Retailed Hawks feed primarily on the Wyoming Ground Squirrels, as well as rabbits, snakes, small to medium sized birds, fish etc.

These and all birds of prey are federally protected by law and shooting one is a criminal offense.
By the time this bird will be released back in Estes, it will cost in excess of $2,000. These costs add up quick, when you include the time it takes for me to drive to Broomfield, to drop the bird off, then pick it back up and bring it back to Estes. Also, don’t forget the time spent for Sigrid to drive to Colorado Springs, along with the money it costs to buy rats and feed the rats along with cleaning their cages. Also cleaning the cage the hawk is in. The Birds of Prey Foundation pays their employees to do all of this.

Since I began rehabilitating birds in the early nineties, I have received a Raven that was shot in the wing, a Sharp-shinned Hawk that was shot in the wing and an Osprey that was shot as well.

The saddest part of all those birds was the Raven. After it was shot I rehabilitated released it after six months in captivity. I released the bird near Lake Estes. Two weeks after I released it someone shot and killed it.
If anyone has any information about who shot of the above mentioned Red-tailed Hawk please contact Rick Spowart, CDOW Wildlife Manager, at the Estes Park Police Department 586-4000 or by calling 667-2984.

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