Thursday, June 30, 2005

a poisoned redtail?

I was eating a most delicious confection of chocolate mousse topped with glazed fruit when a friend called. She and her walking partner had found a dead redtailed hawk, and she wanted to know what to do. I said I would come get it and take it to the humane society in the morning. If it was West Nile virus, the county would want to know. But when she said the bird appeared to have vomited, I couldn't remember if that was a WNV symptom. I jumped in the car and drove out to the park.

It was a good-sized male redtail, a few months old, and other than being dead he was healthy as a horse: full breast, clean fresh-edged feathers, unmarked feet. It was sad to think of the lost potential. The bird had indeed vomited a mix of feathers (good) and what appeared to be red and green dog kibble (quite unnatural; a healthy redtail wouldn't consider kibble to be food). There was also a dead wasp at the edge of the mess -- it would seem it had taken a taste of it and also died. Whatever the poison was, it had worked fairly quickly.

The walking partner said last week she had also encountered a dead hawk of similar size. This was surprising, and worrisome, but there didn't seem much point to looking for it. By now it would probably be too decomposed to know if it too had eaten poison. But it was additional curiosity to an already unusual situation.

There were two police cruisers there as well. Apparently they had called the humane society, who would be coming to pick up the body. I decided I would wait for them, and my friend waited with me. After a half-hour, though, we began to suspect PHS wasn't coming, and the people who lived in the nearest house confirmed it: they had called at 8:00 this morning, and again at 4:30pm. PHS doesn't like to deal with dead animals -- cute kitties, puppies and bunnies make money and good PR. Dead animals are just a chore.

I bagged the redtail and separately bagged as much of the casting as I could scrape up, and put it all in my freezer. Then I finished the remaints of my dessert.

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