It takes a village to rescue a hawk
Unlike "Blackhawk Down," not every story of a hawk going down has an unhappy ending.
A very young orphaned red-tailed hawk from the Cranbrook area was given a new lease on life after being rescued and rehabilitated - an enterprise that involved the efforts of a local couple, a provincial airline, and a remarkable society in the Lower Mainland devoted to the welfare of young birds in trouble. John Bradshaw of Cranbrook was cycling in the Jim Smith Lake area in late June when he came across the hawk chick in the grass just off the road. Bradshaw and his partner Sioux Browning took the hawk home for a couple of days, before sending it via Pacific Coastal Airlines to the Orphaned Wildlife Rehabilitation Society (OWL), located in Delta, B.C. OWL is a non-profit organization whose volunteers are dedicated to public education and the rehabilitation and release of injured and orphaned birds. The society sees about 350 birds on average a year come into the shelter, from all over British Columbia. But Rob Hope, Head Bird Care Supervisor at OWL, says those numbers are up this year. "We're about 80 birds above average at this time." OWL specializes in raptors and birds of prey - hawks, owls, eagles, and such - which are transported from all over the province by Pacific Coastal Airlines, which provides that service free of charge. "They are our lifeline," Hope said. "Without them we couldn't save these little guys." In the case of the Cranbrook hawk - dubbed Purcell by his rescuers - Hope said he was even younger than the average orphaned bird which comes through the centre. "They're usually a little older," Hope said. "This one was still a chick, about three weeks old - still with lots of down." Hope said that before sending the young hawk out to OWL, Browning and Bradshaw first took care to remove an infestation of maggots from the bird. Upon arriving at the centre, his carers gave him a lot of food to get his weight up. Once the young bird started vocalizing, he was put under the care Ladyhawk, as she is named. "(Ladyhawk) is a big old female imprint," Hope said. "She couldn't be used for falconry, so she was donated to us. We use her as a foster parent, and she did the job of raising him." Bradshaw and Browning were at the airport to pick up the bird, and on late Sunday afternoon, August 14, released the young hawk in the Cranbrook Community Forest. Purcell was understandably pleased to be released from his long confinement in the travel cage, and darted aloft into the security of the trees, where he spent some time adjusting to his new home in the wild.