The call came in from the Crestline Police Department. Someone had an injured hawk in their backyard and was hoping to find help for it.
I made sure I had all my gear in the truck: net, gloves, and carrier, and hurried to the semi-rural home just south of Crestline. A young man led me out back of the house to a field and there, lying on its back, was a large female Red-tailed hawk.
As I approached, the bird showed no awareness of me. I knelt down, my gloved hands ready to grasp her legs in order to protect myself from her talons and to prevent her from struggling. It was then that I saw, with dismay, that she was having great difficulty breathing due to heavy internal bleeding - blood was coming up through her throat and into her mouth.
I grasped her legs and put my other hand under her back for support and as I lifted her up from the ground I heard a screaming call from a tree at the back of the property.
The young man said "That bird has been yelling every time I come near this one." It was, of course, the bird's life-long mate. A male who, along with this female, had raised young each year, and soared the skies during mating flights and while hunting. Now, sadly, he would be alone. I could still hear him calling for her as I left.
The female was dead before we got to the hospital. No more soaring free on the wind, no more teaching her young to hunt, no more of life's seasonal cycles, no more...........
A necropsy showed the cause of her tragic, needless death. She had been poisoned by an anti-coagulant and had bled to death. She had, most likely, caught and eaten a freshly poisoned rat.
Her mate will find a new female to raise young with, but will he and I ever forget her?
Many people do not realize how many animals can suffer from the use of rat and mouse poison. These edible baits are often eaten by non-target species and the bait also causes secondary poisoning in a creature who eats the rodent who has consumed the bait. Please explore alternative methods of rodent control!