Tuesday, February 13, 2001

Tuesday, February 6, 2001

Raptor Down

February 6, 2001 © Thomas J. Kollenborn. All Rights Reserved. 

Several days ago I was driving along the Apache Trail looking form a site from which to photograph Gonzales Needle. As I drove around a slight curve a large bird hobbled across the road in front of me and I recognized it as a hawk. I thought it was strange for such a large bird of prey to be walking across the highway, so I stopped the vehicle to investigate. I walked toward a clump of Chain Cholla and found the hawk hiding behind a good size Bursage bush. The bird had several cholla pods attached to its body.

Birds of prey have extremely sharp beaks and talons so touching the bird would not have been advisable. I returned to my vehicle to leave the bird to survive on its own, but as I started my engine something compelled me to have another look at the bird’s predicament. I turned off my engine and walked back to the bird’s hiding place. Looking at the bird from about ten feet away, I recognized it to be a Harris Hawk. I was convinced this bird could not survive without help.

I didn’t want to see the bird perish, and it appeared to be in serious pain from all the cholla pods hanging from its body. The Harris Hawk is an endangered species protected by law so I called the Arizona Game and Fish Department to seek some advice.

The Arizona Game and Fish Department gave me the number of Liberty Wildlife’s volunteer Carl Price. I called Mr. Price and he arrived within the hour, anxious to help.

Price stepped out of his pickup and looked the situation over. He returned to his pickup for a net, gloves and a transport container. He knew exactly how to handle the Harris Hawk without exciting the bird too much and further injuring it. The capture required about two minutes. I assisted Carl by carefully removing the cholla pods from the hawk while it perched on Carl’s arm. The hawk was then safely placed into a transport container. I filled out some paperwork for Carl about location, etc, and the hawk was transported to a safe place for a good examination, rehabilitation and future release.

Carl said the bird was young and probably chasing a rodent or something on the ground and ran into a Cholla cactus. He said the bird didn’t appear to have any broken bones but would require a thorough examination by a veterinarian. He felt the bird was strong and would return to the wild.

After it was all over I felt very good and pleased about myself for waiting and helping. Even though I had been in a hurry that day, slowing down and spending some time saving the life of a wild animal which so represented the Sonoran Desert had given me a really great feeling. It gave me a few moments to reflect on just how important our desert is to us and how we should appreciate and protect it for future generations to enjoy. Once the great birds of prey, the coyotes, javelinas, jackrabbits, badgers, deer, tortoises and other animals are all gone, we can’t bring them back from extinction.

As a community we are fortunate to have Liberty Wildlife volunteers such as Carl Price working to protect and save our desert animals. It is apparent that many animals would perish without Carl Price and other wildlife volunteers. Most animals are not as lucky as the Harris hawk I saw, and a couple of hours out of my life gave this beautiful and rare young raptor another opportunity to soar above the Sonoran Desert and be a part of our desert’s ecosystem.

If you see an injured animal, do not attempt to capture or help it, please call professionals who know what they are doing. The Liberty Wildlife volunteers are trained to handle wildlife and are approved by the Arizona Game and Fish Department; (602) 942-3000 and Liberty Wildlife Hotline; (480) 998-5550.