Rough legged hawk gets help from a Gambell friend
By Diana Haecker
A rough legged hawk got a second lease on life when a Gambell woman and her mother happened upon the injured bird while riding their ATV, coming to its aid and then sending it to a bird sanctuary in Anchorage, where the animal will be nursed to health to be released back into the wild.
Caitlin Konahok of Gambell said in an email to the Nugget that she was riding her Honda with her mother and two dogs on October 23, when her mother noticed the bird at the side of the road. “My dogs ran to it to get a closer look but it flew away a few feet and had its wings up to make itself look bigger defending itself against my dogs. My dogs walked away and left it alone,” Konahok reported. The two women felt there is something wrong with the bird for it to not fly off. Her mother had a towel with her and gave it to Konahok to catch the bird. “My smaller dog was keeping it distracted so I snuck up behind it and gently threw the towel over it and picked it up,” she said. They took the bird home and, with Gay Sheffield providing the contact, connected with the Alaska Dept. of Fish and Game office in Nome. They connected Konahok with the Bird Treatment and Learning Center in Anchorage, an organization that provides rehabilitative care for injured, ill and orphaned wild birds. They wanted to see if the bird is indeed injured and instructed Konahok to release it. She, her family and the bird drove back to the mountain to see if it flies away on its own. But, reports Konahok, “it wasn’t going to fly away no matter how much time and space I gave it.” So she went about catching the raptor. “I’d chase the hawk for a while then we would both rest and look at each other. I couldn’t give up after seeing its little curious face looking back at me. I went after it one more time after thinking ‘okay if I don’t catch it this time I’m going home.” It started running then tripped on the snow so when I got closer to, I spread my arms out to look like a bigger bird gliding down on the hawk. The hawk lied down staying still so I quickly but carefully grabbed its feet.” She wrapped it in a towel then drove home.
The next day she contacted Fish and Game and they arranged a Bering Air trip for the hawk to Nome and then on to Anchorage’s Bird TLC. “While I had the hawk with me at home I decided to name it “Konahawk” like my last name,” said Konahok. ADF&G Assistant Area Biologist Alicia Carson said when she picked up the animal from Bering Air she “was pleased to see that the hawk was vigilant and bright eyed but appeared to have some damage to his feathers.” Nome ADFG facilitated his transition from Bering Air to Alaska Air Cargo in Nome. Carson reported that upon arriving in Anchorage, Bird TLC pick up the hawk and assessed his health, saying that he is doing well, has a very healthy appetite, and is in his own enclosure to limit human interactions.
Executive Director Laura Atwood at Bird TLC told the Nugget that the gender of the bird is unknown, but he or she is about one to two years old and the prognosis for its recovery looks good. “There are no injuries but there is significant damage to the flight feathers on both wings and the tail. Because of this, the hawk cannot be released until it has gone through a molt which will be spring or early summer of 2023. We cannot determine the cause of the damage to the feathers,” Atwood said in an email.
She added that due to the damage to the flight feathers, they could not release this bird at this time because they are a migratory species and the migration period has passed.
While Bird TLC isn’t sure yet where to release the hawk, Konahok expressed happiness that the hawk will recover. “I’m hoping that it can be released back in Gambell since there has been hawks near the village for at least a decade now. The smart and beautiful bird was very alert and healthy looking. I didn’t want to give up on it. I knew it wasn’t ready to give up either,” she said.