York-area hawk impaled by arrow proving elusive to would-be rescuers

Liz Evans Scolforo

An injured red-tailed hawk that's been spotted several times at a York County park is having no part of state and local efforts to capture and treat it.

State and county officials said on April 6, 2016, that they've been trying to capture this injured hawk for a month.

"They're not the most friendly birds," said Wildlife Conservation Officer Shawn Musser with the Pennsylvania Game Commission. "It's difficult to catch. I have an 8-foot net, but we just can't get that close to it."

The first report of the injured red-tail, which has an arrow impaled in its chest, came about a month ago, Musser said. He and other wildlife conservation officers, as well as private falconers and York County park rangers, have been trying to trap the bird ever since.

"Everybody's trying to catch this thing, to no avail," he said. "We have two falconers — one from York County and one from Lancaster County — and they are putting out traps."

The hawk has been seen sitting on power lines and towers at Rocky Ridge County Park's Oak Timbers parking lot and also on private property in the area, officials said. A farmer was the first person to notify the game commission, according to Musser.

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York County Chief Park Ranger Gerald Ford said the raptor has proved elusive.

"It comes and goes, and you never know when it's going to be here," he said. "We've had about two calls from people who saw it at Rocky Ridge, but by the time we get there it's already gone."

Plus, Ford said, each time the hawk has been seen it's been on a power line or tower, and it's not safe for rangers to try to climb the tower. Ford said he personally has gone to Rocky Ridge several times to look for the hawk, but so far he hasn't seen it.

Flying, eating: Musser said the hawk is able to fly, perch and eat.

"It may not be feeding on tough things (to catch), but a lot of people around that area have bird feeders out," the conservation officer said, and songbirds can make easy meals.

Because the hawk has its full flying abilities, the falconers involved have for a couple of weeks now been putting out what are known as bal-chatri traps to catch it, Musser said.

That's a kind of trap in which live bait — in this case, a rodent — is placed in a cage that has loops attached to the top, "almost like little nooses," Musser said. The bait animal is safe inside the trap, but when a raptor tries to grab the bait with its talons, the loops close around its legs, he said.

This is a type of bal-chatri trap, used to capture raptors.
(Photo courtesy of pugetsoundbirds.org)

Some people on social media sites have been critical of officials' efforts to catch the injured hawk, Musser said, adding it's not that easy.

"If anybody knows how to do it, they're more than welcome to come show me," he said — and he's not being defensive. Musser means it.

How to help: If officials catch the hawk, it will be taken to Mitzi Eaton, a Yorkana-based raptor rehabilitator, Musser said. Eaton has said she's the only licensed wild bird-of-prey rehabber in southcentral Pennsylvania.

If you see the hawk, you're asked to call officials immediately. Musser said people can call the game commission's southcentral dispatch office at (814) 643-1831, or call 911.

Ford said anyone who sees the hawk can also call the York County Parks office during normal business hours at (717) 840-7440, or after hours call (717) 840-7229. The after-hours number is directed to the on-duty ranger, he said.

State and county officials said on April 6, 2016, that they've been trying to capture this injured hawk for a month.

Ford said he thinks it's rare for a bird to be shot with an arrow and survive this long.

"It must not have hit any vital organs," he said.

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