PHOTO: A red-tailed hawk named
Samantha Micoliczyk tried not to cry.
From a kitchen window, she had seen the red-tailed hawk topple out of a mighty maple in mid-March. Lying on the ground, the normally tough bird was clearly in peril.
Samantha Micoliczyk and her husband,
It was a powerful scene when
“It was such a great moment,” Samantha Micoliczyk said. “It was very cool. And very cool that the boys could see it, too, just because we’ve been talking about the bird since we found her.”
Let’s flash back a few times.
First, it’s a few months ago and
Samantha Micoliczyk: “We were just eating breakfast, and I just happened to look out the window and saw a huge – I didn’t know what it was at the time – bird falling slowly out of a tree, kind of like it was doing a cartwheel down the tree in slow motion. As it was falling, I saw Bailey (the family dog, a lab) running, and I ran out there in my robe. I didn’t know what it was. I didn’t want Bailey to try to touch it. Bailey went up to it, and the hair stood up on his back, and he backed up. It was like she was no match for him. The hawk lying on its back. It had its eyes closed at first. But when got up close, it sat up and its feathers went out and looked at me. It was so big with its wings outspread. When I first went out there, I thought it was an owl because its feathers were all up and it looked so big. It was obviously scared, and its eyes were like this (wide open). And its talons were out.”
So there the Micoliczyks were – a live and seriously injured hawk in their back yard, where their kids play and their dog does his thing. What to do?
Samantha Micoliczyk: “And there were crows all around.”
Samantha Micoliczyk: “We thought maybe the hawk got into a fight with them. They were all over, just squawking nonstop. Before the animal control man got here, we kept checking on the hawk because it was starting to look lifeless. It wasn’t moving. But every time we went out there, it would turn and look at us.”
A week or so later, the Micoliczyks went on a family outing to Bay Beach Wildlife Sanctuary on
Along the way, I visited
What were the bird’s injuries?
Lori Bankson said, “We’re suspecting we had some sort of a head injury, some sort of internal bleeding because she did have some blood that was in her mouth. It was something that really knocked her for a loop. Definitely some head injury. We couldn’t find anything skeletal injuries. We couldn’t find any soft tissue damage. She had some bruising that slowed her down for a few days, but it looks like she’s on the road to recovery from all of those injuries.”
The plan was to move
Lori Bankson said, “We make sure she is able to not only make the laps of flying long lengths but also that she is hitting her landings and her takeoffs look good. We’re going to make sure she can find food in different areas, be able to spot that, rip up prey and eat that well. We make sure that she is fit, not only strength wise but also cardiovascular wise. We watch her pulse and respiration. So we give her some flight training, flight time, and make sure that she’s going to be ready for when she’s released.”
The plan was to release
Lori Bankson said, “This is the time of year that birds of prey have paired up, looking for nest sites, beginning that spring ritual. We want to make sure that we get her, as we do with most adults, back into the area that she’s most familiar with. The birds have a hunting ground, they have territory. She hasn’t been out of there too long, so we’re hoping that she can regain that territory and be successful once again.”
I wondered whether the rough winter was a factor in something having happened to
Lori Bankson said, “It’s been such an interesting winter. We’ve been noticing the birds of prey having a hard time finding food, finding that visible food with so much snow cover. Sometimes these guys are getting a little bit weak or getting the right gust of wind. This red tail came in at a pretty decent weight, but we made sure to put a little bit more weight on her as she was recovering so she didn’t have to worry about those calories, kind of build them back up.”
The neighborhood where
Lori Bankson said, “It’s just amazing how wildlife is adapting so well to these urban areas – and busy areas. I’m always fascinated by hearing stories like that because it just shows how this human-animal interaction is evolving so much. I talk with other staffers about it, too. Just 15 years ago, we were getting in 2,000-3,000 animals every year at the sanctuary and thought that was huge. This past year, we got in nearly 5,200 animals. Is it that people are more aware of the animals? Is it that people are outside more? Is it that we are just interacting more? So it is always fascinating to hear these different things and how things are evolving in the area.”
Flashing forward to release day,
Lori Bankson donned thick leather gloves to handle
A back yard release “is a rare occasion,” Lori Bankson said. “It is very important with the Wildlife Sanctuary that animals that are brought in as adults, that have a set territory, a set home, that we get them back where they belong. That’s always a goal of ours.”
When Lori Bankson moved to a spot in the yard where there was enough room for
Lori Bankson said, “You never know. Even though you’ve conditioned them, you’ve worked with them, you’ve done everything possible – you do the morning check, the morning weight, everything is right on cue – there’s always that chance. So it’s just a relief as well when you let ’em go back into the wild, and you see them fly beautifully – everything they’re supposed to do. But yeah, you get a little bit nervous right before the event.”
There’s a thrill when everything falls into place.
Lori Bankson said, “When you can see that process from beginning to end – they come in and you see how run down, how injured they are – and then you can get them back out into the wild, it really is one of the most amazing feelings. To see that entire process work and to be triumphant and work together with the community so you can all achieve that goal is pretty great.”
Given the condition
Lori Bankson said, “We give a reference number to every animal. But sometimes it’s not as easy when you really get to know a bird and get to work with a bird, saying ‘14R16.’ That doesn’t roll off the tongue very easily. When we were talking with people, we called her the
Lori Bankson said, “It is because March is when they were starting to become territorial, ready to set up nests. Hopefully we didn’t miss too much of the nesting season. That was a goal as well – to get her out as soon as possible. But for her to be successful and even stick around the area and have a nest eventually, that’s always a triumph as well…
“Hawks are very visual birds, and they do recognize each other. She was calling this morning. She knew it was time. So you wonder if she was looking for him or who she was calling to.”
Even though where
“Exactly,” Lori Bankson said. “
The more wildlife in residential neighborhoods, the more phone calls to the Wildlife Sanctuary.
Lori Bankson said, “We hit a spike once we hit March and April and May, but definitely the calls now are more numerous than they have been in the past. We can have a day where we’ll get anywhere from 20 to 50 calls. That can be voice mails and people calling just with questions like, ‘I’ve seen this. Can you identify this?’ Or, ‘I’ve found some baby squirrels in my yard. What do I do to help them?’ ‘What can I do to safely get these baby bunnies to you that my dog found?’ ‘I have a hawk that’s down. Who can I call to help me?’ We’re really happy that we’re able to work not only with our great staff and volunteers but also with animal control officers and members of the public, then talk with them so they take the proper safety precautions along with our DNR that we get these animals in that need to be brought in. Animals that can stay out in the wild can stay in the wild and get the care and the time and the rest that they need. It really is great that people know when they have a wildlife question they can talk to us, they can call us. We’re open every day of the year, and we can help them help wildlife. We take calls from all over the state of
The story for
Lori Bankson said, “Sometimes if an animal comes in that is very severely injured, that is suffering, in a lot of pain, we consult with our veterinarian. Sometimes humane euthanasia is an option as something we can do. Sometimes they pass away no matter what our efforts are. We treat every case with that goal to get back out to the wild. We do everything that we can to help that animal, but we do take the animal’s suffering, the animal’s pain factor and what quality of life that animal would have into consideration with every case as well. But definitely every animal that comes through our doors we want to get back out into the wild.”
Many people face what the Micoliczyks faced in March. They looked up the Bay Beach Wildlife Sanctuary and phoned (920) 391-3685.
Samantha Micoliczyk said, “We didn’t really know how to handle the situation, and we called them first and they told us what to do, and it’s a great ending to the story.”
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