A red-tailed hawk is back out in the wild after a few weeks rehabilitation after being found on the side of the highway by a Clearwater resident in May.
Alexis Pearce was driving along Highway 5 on her way to Barriere to pick up her daughter when she spotted what looked like a young eagle on the side of the road near Blackpool. Unclear of what she saw, Pearce continued on her drive. On their way back home to Clearwater, she kept an eye out for the injured bird and spotted it again in the tall grass.
“I made a u-turn that would turn into one of the most unique experiences I’ve had,” Pearce wrote in a post on Facebook.
She and her daughter Nature hopped out of the vehicle and began to search for the bird. When they found it and approached the animal, it hopped into the ditch.
“It was as if it was waiting for someone to see it and help by how it was positioned so visibly, just barely in the tall grass,” Pearce told the Times, adding she stopped to help the bird simply because it was the right thing to do.
Pearce took photos and video in an attempt to document the location and posted the discovery on the Clearwater Info Board Facebook group. Within moments she was connected to Sandra Di Stefano from Orphaned Wildlife, or OWL, a “non-profit society dedicated to the survival of raptors,” who promptly arrived at the scene.
The hawk, named Amber by Pearce’s daughter, suffered a broken ulna (wing) from being hit by a vehicle on the highway, Di Stefano told the Times. She was taken to OWL in Delta, B.C. and was rehabilitated and banned with a number on its leg before being released on July 29.
OWL focused on raptors, or birds of prey, such as eagles, falcons, hawks, ospreys, owls and vultures. Since October, said Di Stefano, she’s picked up a great horned owl, two bald eagles, one osprey, one red-tailed hawk, five Merlin falcons, one kestrel and one short-eared owl. Birds end up in their facilty for many reasons, including being hit by traffic, rat or lead poison, attacks from a household pet or wildlife and fighting other birds over territory or food.
When a large bird is spotted on the side of the road or in the wilderness by a passerby with a band on its leg, Di Stefano asks that it be reported, even if the animal may be dead as it helps the OWL team to track their numbers.
The main goal of OWL is to rescue, rehabilitate and release orphaned or injured raptors, as well as educate the public on the importance of their conservation. Much like other examples in the animal kingdom, rapotor birds are at the top of their food chain and help to keep the ecosystem in balance. They are also known as indicator birds, as studying their population numbers and trends can provide information about environmental changes.
When Amber the hawk was ready to be released, Pearce and Nature met up with Di Stafano and her grandniece at Dutch Lake to witness the young red-tailed hawk being released back into its habitat.
“Not only were we fortunate to have such a close-up experience as to see what turned out to be a red-tailed hawk being rescued, we have now been blessed with the experience of seeing it return, fully rehabilitated, to be released back into its environment of origin,” Pearce’s Facebook post reads. “These types of experiences may seem small to some, but are the ones that truly enrich our lives — bringing us so close to nature’s beautiful creation.”
Anyone who finds an injured or orphaned raptor can contact OWL at (604) 946-3171, available 24 hours for raptor emergencies. While they’re not able to help other birds such as crows, songbirds or waterfowl, nor with mammals, amphibians or reptiles, they can help find the proper contact in those situations.