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Trucker's concern leads to quick hawk rescue in Hellam Twp.

Liz Evans Scolforo
717-505-5429/@LizScolforoYD

A red-tailed hawk hunting the grassy median strip on Route 30 in Hellam Township Easter Sunday flew straight into the windshield of a tractor-trailer after catching a meal.

This red-tailed hawk flew into the windshield of a tractor-trailer on Route 30 in Hellam Twp. on March 27, 2016.
(Photo courtesy of Hellam Twp. Police)

Truck driver Jeffrey Deach, 59, of the Reading area, was driving westbound from Berks County to Hanover when he saw the hawk headed toward him around lunchtime.

"The poor hawk," he said. "When it tried to take off with its lunch, it ... flew right in front of me."

Deach hit the brakes and tried to slow down but was unable to swerve to the right because the truck was already in the right lane.

"It happened so quickly," he said.

The hawk struck the windshield of the rig and became wedged under the cab's exterior wind reflector, which is above the windshield, according to Deach.

The truck driver pulled over and stopped, causing the hawk to tumble down onto the truck's hood and then to the ground.

"He was still alive. I just couldn't leave him there," Deach said. "I put a pair of gloves on and picked him up."

Deach moved the wounded hawk to an area of brush alongside the highway, he said, then called 911.

Rehabber called: Hellam Township Police arrived and summoned medical help, according to Chief Drew Heistand.

"We called Mitzi," he said.

State-licensed bird-of-prey rehabilitator Mitzi Eaton rescues an injured red-tailed hawk from Route 30 in Hellam Twp. on Sunday, March 27, 2016.
(Photo courtesy of Hellam Twp. Police)

Based in Yorkana — just a few miles from where the hawk was hurt — Mitzi Eaton is a private, state-licensed rehabilitator of wild birds of prey. The next closest bird-of-prey rehabbers are in Schuylkill and Centre counties, she said, so Eaton gets calls about wounded birds from all over southcentral Pennsylvania.

Eaton said she treated the hawk for shock and monitored him, but his condition deteriorated. He ended up dying Sunday night from the chest trauma he suffered, which caused the hawk increasing respiratory distress, she said.

Some states provide financial help for wild animal rehabilitators, but Pennsylvania is not among them, according to Eaton, who works a full-time job in addition to caring for injured hawks, owls, kestrels, the occasional vulture and, rarely, even eagles.

"I'm just hanging in there," she said. Eaton has been doing rehabilitation work for nearly 30 years.

Trucker praised: Both Chief Heistand and Eaton praised Deach — who was driving for R.H. Crawford Inc./Hanover Logistics — for stopping to help the injured hawk.

Heistand said the sharp talons and beaks of hawks tend to dissuade people from trying to pick them up. And while hawks are occasionally struck by vehicles along Hellam Township's section of Route 30, drivers generally just keep going, he said.

"You really have to credit the truck driver for stopping and carrying it to the side of the road," Heistand said.

"I thought that was amazing myself," Eaton said.

Redtails can often be seen perched in branches alongside highways with grassy median strips.

"They love hunting the medians because that's where the rodents are," she said.

How to help: If you see an injured bird of prey, or want to make a donation, call Eaton at (717) 757-4420. If possible, place the bird in a cardboard box and put the box in a warm, dark, quiet place until it can be picked up, she said.

Eaton said sometimes a box can simply be placed on top of the injured bird so the good Samaritan doesn't even have to touch the bird.

She warned people not to interfere with young owls and hawks on the ground that are still learning to fly, which is a normal springtime phenomenon.

"They learn to fly from the ground up," Eaton said, adding the young birds' parents are most likely still feeding them and supporting them even after the youngsters wind up on the ground.

— Reach Liz Evans Scolforo at levans@yorkdispatch.com.