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home : columns : columns January 22, 2018

1/2/2018 6:48:00 PM
Use your kindness wisely!
A wild red-tailed hawk caught in a chicken yard fence. Donít, for the life of you, go near one! photo provided
+ click to enlarge
A wild red-tailed hawk caught in a chicken yard fence. Donít, for the life of you, go near one! photo provided

By Jim Anderson

Pam Nord of Sisters came home and found a so-called, "chicken hawk" caught in her chicken pen fence. There were no chicken feathers or parts strewn about, so she immediately focused on the plight of her not-so-friendly visitor.

The hawk was well attached to the fence, in such a manner that it looked impossible for it to escape without the assistance of human help. Hawks are killers, and in order to do their killing efficiently they use a pair of muscular legs equipped with four long, very flexible toes on each leg, and on the end of the eight toes there are needle-sharp talons.

Those talons are capable of closing in on each other with such power and speed they will crush the skull of a jackrabbit and pierce into the bodies of ground squirrels in the blink of an eye. Even death itself will not open those talons and release that grip upon the unfortunate victim caught in the lethal vise.

That is what dear Pam didn't realize or, in her concern for the welfare of the trapped hawk, completely overlooked.

"I stopped my car and went to the pen and saw it was a red-tailed hawk," Pam wrote me. "I had leather gloves on and a leather coat, so I decided to untangle the hawk from the fence and set it free. As I worked to free the hawk from the fence, I started with its right leg and then took its beak out of the corner of the fence, and then started on its left leg.

"When I loosened the left leg from the fence, the hawk used the talons of its left leg to grab onto my left arm. It was difficult to loosen the feet because the curved nails (talons) had gone in three places, the worst being on the top of my left forearm and two places around the bottom of my arm.

"I kept hold of the left leg in my left hand and had the right leg in my right hand and lifted him up over the fence and threw him as high as I could, and he flew away. He didn't even say 'thank you.' Ha-ha!"

How that dear woman could say "Ha-ha!" after being grabbed by four talons of a very unhappy hawk is beyond me. I've been in the same predicament on too many occasions and know exactly what goes on in one's body physiologically when a raptor sinks its talons into your flesh!

"My arm immediately started to swell and bleed in three different places. It looked like I had three golf balls under the skin. I drove to the emergency room at St. Charles Redmond, and they saw me immediately."

I'll intrude again at this point, because there's a factor in this account that Pam's not sharing with you: the searing pain! When a raptor closes its talons, it releases all the muscle action that holds those feet open. The force and the resulting leverage that closes the feet and the talons puncturing flesh and bone is measured in foot-pounds and that is something the human body can barely handle. In short, Pam was really hurting!

"Everyone at the hospital was intrigued because they had never seen or heard anything like it before. The surgeon came in and said they would do surgery as soon as possible and started IVs with three different heavy-duty antibacterial drugs, and said I could lose my arm."

And that's no kidding! The biological contaminants that hawk shoved into Pam's arm muscles and circulatory system are uncountable, and unbelievably nasty.

"I ended up in a hospital room about 7:30 in the evening. My arm started bleeding heavily, the nurses had to change all the bedding two times during the night as well as use new bandages.

"The surgeon came in early Monday morning and before I knew it I was wheeled back into the surgery for another operation. He told me they cauterized the edges of both incisions. And he told me to stop using Plavix because that drug was what caused all the bleeding.

"My arm is healing well currently. (I won't lose it.) The incisions itch but I think that is a good sign. The top stitches have been removed and the stitches underneath will dissolve."

Pam is one very fortunate woman to have the medical aid that prevented blood poisoning and any number of other medical problems from that hawk's damage to her arm. The emergency room personnel's actions quickly neutralized the enormous diversity of ungodly stuff that was on the hawks talons as they penetrated her tissues.

Now that you've heard it first-hand from someone whose kindness cannot be denied, but whose lack of experience in dealing with that feathered stick of dynamite backfired - may I suggest that if you come upon a situation similar to this, PLEASE, PLEASE, no matter how much you care about the trapped and "helpless" raptor, leave it alone.

Sure, if you have something like an old blanket or tarp to throw over it that will cut off it's vision of what's around them, and you can do it without handling the bird, go ahead. Then call 541-388-6363, the local Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) office. If it's a weekend, call the non-emergency dispatch number 541-693-6911. Tell them who you are, where you are, and what you're looking at. Qualified help will arrive.

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