Check out our new hours. Most DCHS and Wildlife Center services are by appointment only, including reuniting lost animals, surrendering a pet, wildlife rehabilitation, and more. Adoption visits are first-come, first-served. We recommend checking our current waitlist prior to your visit.

Dec 3, 2018

The Long Journey Home

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Thanks to generosity like yours, a beautiful red-tailed hawk took flight and returned home after a long, six-month journey of healing.

Back in March a concerned citizen on the northeast side of Madison contacted Dane County Humane Society’s (DCHS) Wildlife Center after finding this hawk in his yard. The bird was hobbling along the ground, completely emaciated and unsuccessfully attempting to capture her next meal. She was so weak the concerned citizen was able to easily and safely contain the hawk and bring her to the Wildlife Center.

Upon initial examination, DCHS’s Wildlife Center staff could tell this hawk was in bad shape. Her feathers had been singed from the flare of a methane burner at a former landfill located near where she was found.

With her damaged feathers leaving her unable to fly or effectively hunt, this once majestic bird was now thin, anemic and suffering from rodenticide (“rat poison”) toxicity. In her attempts to find food, she ate animals that were poisoned with rodenticide.

This red-tailed hawk became the 190th wild patient admitted in 2018 to DCHS’s Wildlife Center, our wildlife rehabilitation program which takes in over 4,000 ill, injured or orphaned wild animals every year.

Your support meant Wildlife Center staff could immediately address this hawk’s many medical needs. She initially received injections of vitamin K to counteract the rodenticide toxicity and was given subcutaneous fluids to alleviate her dehydration.

For the first few days, she was too weak to hold her head up, so staff had to tube feed her twice a day. Slowly she began to gain strength. After a couple weeks of close monitoring and daily doses of vitamin K, she was strong enough to move to an outdoor pen. Healing her feathers, however, would take much, much longer.

The red-tailed hawk's wing with feathers singed by the flare of a methane burner
Feathers all regrown after six months of healing

Growing new feathers is a slow process as, like many birds, red-tailed hawks only molt a couple of feathers at a time. She would end up staying in our care for over six months until all her damaged feathers could be regrown.

During those six months, trained staff and volunteers diligently cared for her, feeding her daily and checking the progress of her wings weekly. Your generosity allowed her the time and space to slowly heal and gain back strength.

Staff closely monitored her transformation until her feathers had finally recovered in September and she was healthy enough to return to the wild.

On a clear day in September, DCHS Wildlife Rehabilitation Coordinator Erin Lemley released the red-tailed hawk back to the area she knew best and where she would have the best chance of survival. Generous support from our community helped us provide six months of rehabilitation, which all paid off in the moment this beautiful bird spread her wings and finally returned home.

Your support of Dane County Humane Society ensures that life-saving programs like our Wildlife Center continue to provide healing and new beginnings to thousands of animals every year, just like this red-tailed hawk. Please continue this vital support helping so many animals in need. Thank you!

Finally spreading her wings and returning home

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