By LINDA MCALPINE Daily News
RICHFIELD — After nearly three months of being nursed back to health, it took less than a minute to release Jackson, the red-tailed hawk, back into the wild Tuesday morning
“We assume he was hit by a car,” Thompson said as she carried the caged bird before his release.
Back in January, a passerby noticed the injured hawk on Highway 45 just south of Highway 60 near Jackson and called law enforcement. A Washington County Sheriff’s Department deputy and a Jackson Police officer responded to the scene and kept the bird from further harm until Thompson could remove it.
An X-ray showed the hawk had multiple fractures of one of the bones in his wing, Thompson said.
Jackson, as the adult male hawk was dubbed by Thompson, was fortunate to avoid surgery and instead had his injured wing bandaged.
“He had a hard time because he developed a complication so it took him longer to heal,” Thompson said.
In order to be ready to be released back into his home territory, Jackson had to show that he could catch his own food, a skill necessary to his survival, Thompson said.
“We tested him with live prey to make sure he could hunt,” she said. Under Thompson’s care, Jackson not only healed but he put on some weight. “He was underweight. He weighed about 857 grams and now he weighs in at 1,100 grams,” she said.
When Thompson and Wanakia volunteer Lisa Leider, of Grafton, reached the place chosen for Jackson’s departure, Thompson put down the blanket covered cage and surveyed the surroundings.
“I’m hoping he’ll head for the big tree,” she said. “Then, he can follow along the tree line into his hunting territory.”
A moment later, Thompson took Jackson out of the cage, holding him in her gloved hands. She gave him a thrust into the air and he was gone, effortlessly landing in the tree Thompson had thought he might head for upon gaining his freedom.
A smile crossed Thompson’s face as Jackson launched himself from a tree branch, caught a breeze and soared across a farm field and into the shelter of the nearby tree line.
“My heart is just pounding. To see him just soar away like that, back where he belongs is such a wonderful feeling,” Thompson said.
Leider said she, too, was moved by moment. She got to meet Jackson while he was recovering at Wanakia. “I brought in a starving duck and have decided to become a volunteer,” Leider said.
The duck, a merganser, Thompson said, made a full recovery and has since been released. With the coming of spring, Thompson said she notices an increase in rescue calls.
“I get calls to rescue babies because when people don’t see the parents around, they think the babies have been abandoned, when that likely isn’t the case at all,” Thompson said.
A mother rabbit, for example, nurses her young in the morning and again in the evening and spends the day away from the nest so not to attract predators, so it could appear that she has abandoned them, Thompson said.
In the case of a critter that has been injured, like in Jackson’s case, a blanket, laundry basket or recycling bin can be used to place over it to keep it calm and in place until a licensed animal rescuer can be called, Thompson said.
For more information about Wanakia Wildlife Rehabilitation and Education Center, visit www. wanakia.mysite.com.