Last week we received a call from a local vet that they had a red-tailed hawk come in who was in need of urgent care. The vet had already run xrays in hope of helping determine what was preventing this bird from flying and the results were horrific! This huge beautiful hawk was the victim of a violent crime, the xrays showed numerous bullet fragments lodged in its body.
While we set up a transport to get the hawk from the vet to our rehabber we also notified the Florida Wildlife Commission (FWC) so that they could open an investigation. It is illegal to harass, attempt to kill or kill any migratory bird in accordance with the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918. Anyone found harming a migratory bird including, but not limited too, hawks, owls, and eagles, can be charged with a misdemeanor with six months in federal prison and $500 in fines. If someone is caught with the intent to sell any part of a migratory bird it is a felony with up to two years imprisonment and $2000 in fines.
As FWC began their investigation we promptly began treatment on the hawk. Once we were able to get him stabilized he was taken to Busch Garden’s state of the art Animal Care Center for additional xrays and a thorough examination . Dr. Dominique not only found that the hawks metacarpal was broken, she also found evidence of soft tissue damage, and 19 pieces of buckshot throughout his body. Due to the placement of the numerous pieces it was decided that surgery to remove them would be too risky and instead we would just have to let it play out. Thankfully after a week of antibiotics, anti-inflammatory, pain management and rest he was ready to be discharged from the hospital.
The next few weeks he is to rest in order to allow the break in his wrist to heal. Once we feel that the wing has completely healed he will be transferred to a flight cage at Nature’s World Wildlife Rescue where he will work on building back up his muscles and practicing his hunting skills. After he is determined to be strong enough we will find a safe location to release him. Generally we aim to release adults in the same area they were found in case they have a partner in the area, however when an animal is a victim of a crime it is in the best interest of the bird to be relocated.