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Red-tailed hawk, found injured along railroad tracks near Ferndale, returned to wild

Humane Society releases rehabilitated hawk back into wild

Whatcom Humane Society's Alysha Elsby, manager of the Wildlife Rehabilitation Center, releases a red-tailed hawk Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2017. The hawk was rehabilitated at the center after being found injured.
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Whatcom Humane Society's Alysha Elsby, manager of the Wildlife Rehabilitation Center, releases a red-tailed hawk Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2017. The hawk was rehabilitated at the center after being found injured.

A hawk found injured near Ferndale last month took flight again Tuesday afternoon when it was released from the Whatcom Humane Society.

The adult male red-tailed hawk had been at the shelter for nearly a month, said Alysha Elsby, a wildlife rehabilitator and manager of the shelter’s wildlife rehabilitation center. Elsby released the hawk in a field behind the shelter at 2172 Division St. in Bellingham.

A train conductor found the hawk lying along the tracks near Ferndale, according to a statement from the shelter. The hawk was unable to stand, and the conductor told staff where they could find the bird.

“We’re guessing that he either got hit by the train or sometimes when they whoosh by, the wind that comes off of that is sometimes enough to do some damage,” Elsby said.

Back at the shelter, staff noticed trauma to the bird’s head and pelvis. It was treated with medicine and therapy for a few weeks, and passed the shelter’s therapy tests with “flying colors,” indicating it was ready to be released, Elsby said.

A group of about 20, including shelter staff and onlookers, gathered in the field behind the shelter amid a brisk wind Tuesday afternoon as the hawk sat in a pet crate. Elsby wrapped the bird in a towel and pulled it out of the crate.

She held the hawk for a few seconds before tossing it up in a gust of wind. The bird spread its wings midair and flew south, landing in a tree at the other end of the field.

Injuries among birds of prey tend to increase during the winter, Elsby said, for two primary reasons. Dawn and dusk, prime feeding hours for raptors, fall around traffic rush hours, she said, which increases the risk for birds to collide with vehicles. The glare on windows from the rising or setting sun can also confuse the birds and cause them to fly into glass.

The colder season also brings more rodents into homes, prompting residents to use toxic bait to get rid of the pests. But birds of prey also often become victims of those poisons when they eat rodents that have eaten the bait, Elsby said.

The Whatcom Humane Society is often in need of volunteers and donations for a variety of items, from soap to binoculars, Elsby said. Cash donations are often best, she noted, as they allow the shelter to buy equipment sold only to licensed animal care facilities.

Those interested can donate to the Whatcom Humane Society at whatcomhumane.org/donate-online.

Kyle Mittan: 360-756-2803, @KyleMittan

Reporting injured wildlife

Alysha Elsby, a wildlife rehabilitator and manager of the Whatcom Humane Society’s wildlife rehabilitation center, gives some tips for reporting injured wildlife.

▪  From a distance, and without touching the animal, ensure that it’s actually hurt by looking for blood or any other signs of injury. Oftentimes animals are just resting, Elsby said.

▪  If the animal is indeed injured, call the Whatcom Humane Society at 360-966-8845. A staff member will help you assess the situation over the phone.

▪  Depending on the situation, staff may direct you to move the animal to a safe place, like a box, until they can come transport it, or to just leave it.

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