Whenever a bird is released back into the wild following rehabilitation at Teton Raptor Center, it is outfitted with a USGS metal leg band featuring a unique number. This number is entered into an international database so that if the bird is ever found again, its origins can be traced back to where it was banded. Several times a year, we get a notification from the Bird Banding Laboratory about a bird from our program. Last month, we were notified about a Rough-legged Hawk found dead in Idaho from a vehicle collision. Though it was sad to learn of its death, the story the band helped tell was that of a successful release. The hawk had been released five years prior after successful rehabilitation at Teton Raptor Center following a collision with a semi-truck.
In early 2017, Jared Funk was driving a semi-truck near Osgood, ID when he noticed a hawk on the side of the road. Fearing it would fly across the road, he slowed down to 35 miles per hour. It was lucky he did, because the hawk flew and collided with the grill of the semi. Jared was able to safely rescue the injured hawk and got it to Teton Raptor Center via the Idaho Department of Fish and Game biologists. At Teton Raptor Center, we found no broken bones but did treat the adult female hawk for respiratory issues and blood in the trachea. In March of 2017, the hawk was banded and released near where it was found. Over the course of the next five years, this highly migratory hawk would have migrated to and from the arctic circle every year. Over this period of time, it may have raised 15 young.
In the wild, Rough-legged Hawks can live into their late teens and longer in captivity. Though we don’t know how old she was on admission, she was at least three years old when she was released back into the wild. Though it was sad for us to hear about its untimely death from another vehicle collision, we couldn’t help but celebrate the success of five extra years added to this hawk’s life thanks to a caring member of the public, our excellent partnership with the Idaho Department of Fish and Game, and our team of veterinarians, avian care technicians, biologists, and volunteers.