Hawks, Dogs, and People

There’s a news story about a boy who fought off a red-tailed hawk that was trying to drag off the boy’s dachshund puppy.

I can understand a certain feistiness in protecting a pet. I expect that I would give no quarter in protecting either of our dogs. I certainly wouldn’t ease up in protection of our birds, either. But the reported story stops short of giving us the complete picture.

It’s getting into winter-time, folks. Raptors die in winter in significant numbers. The young birds haven’t got it all figured out yet, and older birds may succumb to injury or simple age. That means that you will occasionally get desperate raptors whose hunger overcomes their timidity of humans. If they are unable to obtain their usual prey items, side orders in the form of pampered pups and cute kittens in areas that encroach on hawk territory may be altogether too tempting.

The bird that was treated as the villain of the news piece linked above was, in all likelihood, just about starved to death. The strength of the bird may not have been due to hale health, but rather to that last desperate fight against the final enemy and its will to live, maybe another day or week. The encounter with the boy is likely to have left the red-tailed hawk with a broken wing and possibly a concussion, given that the boy is reported to have stepped on its wing and kicked its head. A red-tailed hawk is perhaps two and a half pounds of bird; it has hollow bones that are strong enough for day-to-day use, but certainly are not proof against being trod upon by kids. Especially, perhaps, the corn-fed kids of our current culture.

So, where is the report on attempts to lend a hand to the bird? Something to assess the hawk’s condition (poor, I’m guessing) and try to do something about it? That seems to have been overlooked.

Wesley R. Elsberry

Falconer. Interdisciplinary researcher: biology and computer science. Photographer. Husband. Christian. Activist.