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Hawk injured with arrow is on the mend, should be released soon
Wildlife officers and raptor rescuers hot on the tail of an elusive hawk with an arrow through its body all shared a hunch — happily, an accurate one — that the bird would be captured over the weekend.
That's because Mitzi Eaton, the only licensed wild raptor rehabilitator in a multi-county area, took a rare trip out of town with her husband.
"They hardly ever go away," said her longtime volunteer, Mark Kocher. "We were almost laughing about it, saying 'You just wait.'"
"We had a plan of action," Eaton said, which involved Kocher covering for her and having a veterinarian at Patton Veterinary Hospital in Red Lion on standby. "I figured they'd probably catch this guy while I was away, and everything had to fall into place."
The plan worked perfectly, according to Eaton, who said the hawk is now recovering in a large outdoor flight cage at her Yorkana home.
"We did capture it (Friday evening), and the arrow has been removed and it's doing really well," said Wildlife Conservation Officer Shawn Musser with the Pennsylvania Game Commission. "Everything's leading us to believe it's going to be fine."
Flew to Windsor area: Musser said he was notified Thursday and again Friday that the hawk, which previously had been spotted in and around Rocky Ridge County Park in Springettsbury Township, had been seen hanging around John Fitz Produce, a farmer's market on Windsor Road in Windsor Township.
"We were like, 'Windsor? It really went that far that quickly?" Musser said.
Deputy Wildlife Conservation Officer George "Jake" Smallwood and falconer Tom Beaver rushed there and set up a bal-chatri trap, in which live bait is placed inside a trap that has loops attached to the top; those loops then snag a raptor's talons. Smallwood supplied a hamster as bait.
"Lo and behold, the trap wasn't out there for more than about 30 seconds when the hawk came down and was caught," Musser said. "And for the record, the hamster is is perfectly fine. The way the trap is designed, the birds can't get to the bait."
Musser said the hawk was flying, perching and eating for at least a month with the arrow embedded in its body.
'Incredibly lucky': Smallwood and Beaver met Kocher at Patton Veterinary Hospital, where veterinarian Dr. Kathleen Spencer-Schmidt removed the arrow. Musser said a hood was kept on the bird while it was awake, to keep it calm.
"The hawk was incredibly lucky," Spencer-Schmidt said. "If there's a place to be shot, that was the place."
The arrow went between the hawk's leg and body cavity, just under the skin, she said; it did not puncture the hawk's body cavity.
Spencer-Schmidt said after the hawk was put under general anesthesia, she cut off the end of the arrow and simply pulled out the shaft. She then removed scar tissue from around the wound and flushed the wound with an antiseptic solution, she said. The hawk is now getting pain medication and antibiotics, the vet said.
The hawk, believed to be male, is a bit thin, Spencer-Schmidt said, "but not terribly so." He's expected to make a full recovery, she said.
Kocher kept the hawk at his home overnight Friday, then released it into one of Eaton's large flight cages Saturday, he said.
Restless raptor: Eaton is hoping to release the hawk back into the wild in the next few days.
"I really want to kick him out very soon because the wound looks really good and he's (unhappy about being in) the flight cage," she said. "I'm afraid he'll get a new injury in the flight cage."
Some wild raptors can tolerate being caged, she said, but others can't.
Eaton has been doing raptor rehabilitation for nearly 30 years. If you see an injured bird of prey, or want to make a donation, call her 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.
Hunting the hunter: Musser confirmed he's following up on a few leads regarding the person or people responsible for injuring the hawk.
If those leads are good, it appears the culprits are young adults, Musser said, but he stressed the investigation remains active.
The federal Migratory Bird Treaty act protects all hawks.
Musser asks anyone with information about who shot the hawk to call the game commission's southcentral dispatch office at (814) 643-1831.
— Reach Liz Evans Scolforo at email@example.com.