This Sunday, my husband Tim and I went for a walk on our farm. In the woods, not far from our house, we came upon a beautiful red-tailed hawk with a broken wing. (Later, we learned that the bird had been shot.) The hawk could not fly, only hop along the ground. I waited while my husband took our dogs back to the house, watching the bird to make sure it did not get out of sight, and taking a few photos. When he returned, Tim walked toward the hawk and the bird tried to get away, then attempted to defend itself by turning and facing Tim with its one good wing spread out. Tim quickly placed a plastic tote over the bird, sliding the lid underneath, and tying it shut with rope.
I called Broadbent Wildlife Sanctuary near Irvington, Kentucky, a haven for injured, orphaned and abused wildlife, which provides medical care, rehabilitation and release back into the wild whenever possible. They said they would send someone to pick up the hawk, and we offered to meet them at a gas station about 20 minutes from our house. The man from Broadbent drove about an hour and 20 minutes one way, and we gave him a donation for the sanctuary when we transferred the hawk to his van. He said that a veterinarian would look at the bird, and we could call the next afternoon to see how the hawk was doing.
When I called the next day, a woman who works at the sanctuary told me that the hawk’s wing was broken because the bird had been shot. Because of the nature of the injury, the hawk would never fly again and was subsequently euthanized. She said that in the past year they had taken in even more hawks that had been shot than they usually see.
Since I had a few more questions about the hawk, she called the veterinarian to the phone. He said that, because of the hawk’s size, it was probably a female, and the bird was young, from this year’s hatching, although full sized. He estimated that the hawk had been shot three to five days before we found her, and the infection was very bad by the time he saw her. Because of the advanced state of the infection and the nature of the wound, it would have been impossible to pin the wing so that it could heal. I asked about the pain she must have been in, and he said that the pain was doubtless intense, and that the bird was given pain killer as soon as she arrived at the sanctuary. I asked what would the hawk have eventually died of — infection or starvation — and he said most likely, the bird would have become so weak that she would have been killed by a predator, such as a raccoon or fox.
Someone pointed a gun and shot this beautiful bird out of the sky, just so they could experience a moment’s “fun” watching the hawk fall to earth, a helpless cripple. If we had not found the hawk when we did, she would have died an even more prolonged and miserable death. Even so, the three to five days that elapsed after she was shot must have been terrible for this bird. I can imagine the pain and the fear she must have felt at not being able to fly.
We live on a large farm with many wooded areas, and we do not allow hunting. Either someone sneaked onto our land and shot this hawk, or she was shot by someone on an adjacent farm, and the bird was able to make it as far as our land. I wonder how many others we didn’t find have suffered this fate.
Red-tailed hawks mate for life, so whoever did this could have separated this bird from its mate. Their life span is from 10 to 21 years. This was a young, healthy hawk, and she could have lived for many years. What an utter waste to destroy such a wonderful creature! Her short life was needlessly ended by this person’s act.
Just about every walk we take on our land, we see and hear red-tailed hawks, and some of them nest on our farm. We are thrilled to see them soaring in the sky above and to hear their screams as they proclaim their territory. We often see a pair of hawks that has a nest in a tree down by the river. Was the injured hawk we found one of their children?
I do not understand why someone would take pleasure in wounding and crippling a bird who can fly far up in the sky, and whose eyesight is so keen that it can spot a mouse on the ground.
There is a federal law against killing birds of prey — which include hawks, eagles, owls, vultures, ospreys, falcons and kites — per the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. Violations are punishable by up to six months imprisonment and a $15,000 fine.
Shooting a hawk is one of the most pointlessly cruel and destructive acts I can conceive of. If you shoot hawks, or if you know someone who does, please ask them to think about what they are doing, and ask them why they are doing it. Do they really think their brief moment of amusement justifies the results?