This story will make your heart soar like — well, a red-tailed hawk.
The other day Westporter Laura Skutch was on I-95 south, in rush hour (aka “usual”) traffic.
On the shoulder stood a hawk. Usually, she says, that means they’re making a kill. But she saw nothing under its feet.
Curious, she pulled off at the next exit, and circled back around. He was still there. She guesses he had been struck by a vehicle.
Laura pulled up gently behind him. Trained as a wildlife rehabilitator at Earthplace, she knew that the bird — and drivers — were at risk if he flew into traffic.
“Stopping on I-95 is very intense,” Laura says. “I don’t recommend doing it without police assistance. But I felt the need to do something quickly.”
She approached the bird. He stood there, training one yellow eye on her.
Lacking the tools necessary to make a rescue, she tried to figure out how to use what she had: a fleece blanket and a dog carrier.
Slowly, she held the blanket out as a screen against traffic. Cars whizzed by, just a few feet away.
Slowly, Laura draped the blanket over the bird. He seemed to collapse. She scooped him up safely, in a kind of sack, and avoided his talons.
Laura thought the hawk was dying. She drove to Cornell Emergency Veterinary Specialists in Stamford. They could not take him, but contacted A Place Called Hope. It’s a wildlife rehabilitation sanctuary in Killingworth, dedicated mainly to raptors.
Laura spoke with Christine Secki there. She told Laura to keep the hawk in a quiet place overnight. He stayed in the car, in the dog carrier.
The next morning, his yellow eye peered back at Laura. She drove him to the sanctuary, an hour away.
She was amazed at the sanctuary. “It’s gorgeous,” she says. “Christine and Todd Secki are incredibly dedicated.”
They took the bird in, providing the time and attention he needed to make a full recovery.
Laura checked in every day, for a week. “Christine couldn’t have been nicer,” she says. “I felt a kindred spirit.”
When the hawk was ready to be freed, the Seckis invited her up to do the actual release.
Laura found these tips on what to do if you strike wildlife while driving:
Should you injure an animal, first call wildlife rescue. Unless you can safely do so, do not move the animal. A frightened animal won’t hesitate to bite or scratch, not realizing you are trying to help. It is best to alert people who are trained to handle animals. Put on your vehicle flashers for oncoming traffic.
For rescuing small animals, heavy gloves and an old towel come in handy. Transport the animal to a shelter, veterinarian, or wildlife rehabilitator.
Let them know the exact location of the accident for when they return the animal to the wild. Rescuers might also want to be sure there are no orphaned animals nearby.
Finally, let authorities know that the injured or dead animal is a traffic hazard. They will respond faster in order to clear the road quickly and help prevent more accidents.
If you are concerned about damage to your vehicle, check with your insurance company to be sure you are covered in the event of a car accident with wildlife.
(Hat tip: David Dreyfuss)