Provided by Prince William County
On the afternoon of Jan. 3, Karen Shumake, a senior park ranger with the Prince William County Department of Parks and Recreation Department, heard police dispatch go out about an injured hawk located at the intersection of U.S. 29 and University Boulevard. Shumake hurried to get there and found an injured, female, red-tailed hawk in the median.
Immediately, Shumake realized that she didn’t have a safe way to safely capture the hawk that could do real damage with its beak and talons. Fortunately, she got some help from a passing motorist and Steven Neff, a county animal control officer.
“I didn’t have anything with me at the time, but a citizen came by and they had a box,” said Shumake. “When animal control showed up, they had a towel for me to use. I threw a towel on top of her, so I could control her and she wouldn’t hurt me. From there, I was able to wrap her up, put her in a box and get her in my car.”
Shumake is a 13-year county employee, who happens to volunteer with the Raptor Conservancy of Virginia in Falls Church. She knew just where to take the bird for help.
Gabby Hrycyshyn, the executive director of the conservancy — which rehabilitates injured or sick owls, hawks, falcons and eagles — helped care for the hawk, which experts at the conservancy determined was hatched in the spring of 2015.
Hrycyshyn said people at the conservancy examined the bird, which was most likely hit by a car, and found that it had clean break in the middle of its humerus that was able to be surgically repaired. “We do an intake exam where we feel the bones in their wings, the bones in their legs; check them for any obvious signs of trauma. In this case what we found was a broken left wing.”
After the bone was surgically set, the conservancy’s surgeon wrapped the hawk’s wing against its body and it stayed that way for a month, Hrycyshyn said. Then there was physical therapy where conservancy rehabilitators regularly extended the wing to its full extension to stretch and strengthen atrophied muscles. After physical therapy, the raptors are transferred to 40-foot flight cages where they are evaluated to see if they’ll be able to fly, hunt and survive in the wild again. “Gradually, over time, they get better and better, stronger and stronger, and this bird is rocket. She’s ready to go,” Hrycyshyn said of the hawk.
On April 5, Hrycyshyn released the hawk at Silver Lake Regional Park in western Prince William County with a group of seventh graders from Ronald Wilson Reagan Middle School watching. The hawk’s release was timed to coincide with an increase in prey animals; and the park, with its abundance of open spaces and trees, seemed a prime location to release a hawk back into the wild, Hrycyshyn said.
Hrycyshyn told the students that about 80 percent of the birds that wind up at the conservancy are injured by motor vehicles. The hawks like to hang out by roads to catch mice that eat food people sometimes throw out of their cars. “Hawks and owls love eating mice. If they’re hungry and they’re looking for an easy meal, they’re going to hang out next to the side of the road in a tree or a power pole.”
Shumate also attended the release and said she kept track of the hawk’s recuperation as she volunteered every weekend at the conservancy. She said she was glad the hawk made it back to the wild. “I went to go see her pretty much every weekend. It was both sad and happy. I became kind of attached to her, but I was very, very happy to see her go back to her natural environment.”