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Hawk Shot in Head with Nail Gun Doing Well After Rescue

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What began as a call from one concerned citizen grew into a citywide effort and ended with the successful capture and rescue of a red-tailed hawk that had been shot in the head with a nail gun.

Katherine Ulrich was walking through the San Francisco Botanical Garden on Oct. 16 when she spotted a bird with something sticking out of its head. She took photographs and called WildRescue, a wildlife rescue group in the Bay Area. After WildRescue alerted the local media, a rescue mission was born.

“When we’re going after a bird which may have miles in its territory, we need sightings,” says WildRescue founder Rebecca Dmytryk. “To get sightings, we need people, and to get to people, we need publicity.”

Several sightings of the approximately 6-month-old bird in the botanical garden suggested that it was weak and in pain. And while it was still a good hunter and had been spotted eating a gopher it had captured, Dmytryk and her team of volunteers were determined to rescue the hawk. Six days of searching passed when, in the middle of a big crowd, with people playing Frisbee and children screaming around the botanical garden, the hawk was captured in a specialized trap for birds of prey.

“People ask why we’re spending so much time going after a single bird,” she says. “No. 1, that’s what we do. No. 2, that bird deserves a second chance, especially if it was hurt by man.”

The nail, which had gone through the female hawk’s head but had missed its nasal cavities, fell out during transport to the animal hospital. The “very, very angry and very boisterous bird” displayed strength and power in spite of its injury, and as it thrashed about, it was able to dislodge the nail, saving itself from surgery.

“She arrived slightly underweight and certainly stressed from the circumstances,” says Anita Templer, executive director of the Wildlife Center of Silicon Valley. “She is now active and eating on her own. The prognosis at this point is very good.”

Adds Ashley Kinney, a wildlife rehabilitation supervisor, “The wound is continuing to heal. I think she was lucky to be hit where she was.”

Once fully recovered, the hawk will be released into the wild in San Francisco. A $10,000 reward is being offered for information about the person responsible for shooting the bird.

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