By Ann Patton
Academy Spirit staff
A red-tail hawk on the Academy has a lot of explaining to do.
The bird joined up with his mate Tuesday after a two-week absence in rehab.
Staff at Air Academy High School called Academy wildlife manager Dr. Brian Mihlbachler when they saw the bird have a head-on collision with a school window.
The hapless raptor received a thorough medical check-up, then underwent treatment for his head, and probably his ego, at the Ellicott Wildlife Rehabilitation in Ellicott, Colo.
Donna Ralph, president of the rehabilitation center, said the release went especially well since the bird’s mate almost instantaneously joined him as he made his first soar into regained freedom.
Ms. Ralph said the hawk’s mate more than likely had another reason for demanding answers about his absence.
“It’s nesting season,” she said.
In addition to the obviously successful release, Mrs. Ralph feels completely confident her former feathered charge will thrive.
“Animals who are released must have 100 percent of its parts and the parts 100 percent in working order,” she said.
The hawk spent three days indoors and the remainder of his time in a flight cage.
“Once birds are flying and landing properly, and especially in light of the season, it was time to let him go,” Mrs. Ralph said.
Dr. William Hancock at Belcrest Animal Clinic in Colorado Springs x-rayed the hawk and gave him a thorough exam, plus treatment for trichomonis, a parasite typically found in raptors who feast on infested rodents.
Mrs. Ralph estimates the hawk is probably about five years old or older, and, before rescue, she said he appeared “skinny.”
Dr. Mihlbachler said the Academy’s Natural Resources staff average about six calls a year about injured wildlife. The majority of other calls are nuisance complaints about animals, including bears.
The rehabilitation center cares for more than 400 animals a year, and peak care times are generally seasonal.
Some of the animals stay in rehab for as little as three hours, others months, such as a bobcat with two broken legs.
The center is a non-profit 501(3)c and operates on donations and volunteers. Last year it completed its raptor flight expansion project, adding 50 feet of length to accommodate convalescing birds of prey to regain flying and landing skills.
“We do it because of the animal who needs our help and for education,” Mrs. Ralph emphasized. “People should know everybody’s here for a reason.”
She added rescues and releases, two of the organization’s goals besides education, foster a connection with people who find injured animals and create appreciation and respect for wildlife.
Besides being “red-tailed hawk” season, this time of year is also what has been called “Bambi season,” when mother deer park their fawns and go foraging for food for themselves in order to nurse their young.
“Leave them alone,” Mrs. Ralph urged. The fawns are not abandoned. Mom’s just out stocking up on groceries.
She also urges anyone who discovers an injured animal to call the center before doing anything. That includes feeding and handling.
The number for the Ellicott center is (719) 683-8152.