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Two red-tailed hawks shot on South Whidbey

This red-tailed hawk lies wounded with birdshot in its wing at Useless Bay Animal Clinic in Freeland. It was one of two hawks that had to be euthanized after being shot. - Photo courtesy of Dave Parent
This red-tailed hawk lies wounded with birdshot in its wing at Useless Bay Animal Clinic in Freeland. It was one of two hawks that had to be euthanized after being shot.
— image credit: Photo courtesy of Dave Parent

Two red-tailed hawks in the South Whidbey area have died in the past two weeks after being shot, local veterinarian Dave Parent said.

One bird had been wounded in the wing, the other in a foot. Both were alive when brought to Parent’s Useless Bay Animal Clinic in Freeland, but both had to be euthanized because of their injuries, he said Thursday.

“I’ve treated wounded birds before, but two in two weeks is a bit much,” Parent said. He said the last previous gunned-down bird he encountered was a bald eagle from the Greenbank area, which was dead on arrival at the clinic about eight months ago.

Red-tailed hawks, common in the Puget Sound area, weigh about two or three pounds and have a wingspan of about four feet, Parent said.

“They’re light,” he said. “They’re built for speed.”

The first wounded hawk, reported by a resident of the area, was found off Deer Run Road near Coles Road on Monday, Jan. 25, Parent said.

“It was probably shot within 100 yards of where it fell,” he said.

Parent said the bird, wounded while in flight, had about 30 birdshot pellets in one wing. He said the wing was so badly damaged, the hawk had to be put to sleep.

The second wounded bird was reported this past Tuesday. It was found by a resident along East Harbor Road near Goodell Road.

Parent said the hawk could have been shot in the foot as much as two weeks earlier. It, too, had to be euthanized, he said.

“This one may have flown quite a distance after it was shot,” Parent said. “It was basically starving to death.”

He said that from the nature of the wound, the hawk probably had been shot with a pellet gun. He said the bird could have been in flight, or perched at the time of the shooting.

“Its foot and bone were infected,” he said. “They don’t do very well with an amputated leg.”

Parent said that because of the distance between them, it didn’t appear the two shootings were connected.

The red-tailed hawk is a bird of prey, one of three of the species known as “chicken hawk,” though Parent said it rarely attacks chickens, because they’re too big to carry.

“They can be beneficial too,” he added. “They eat mice and other rodents. They’re good neighbors.”

The red-tailed hawk breeds throughout most of North America, from western Alaska and northern Canada to as far south as Panama and the West Indies.

Because they’re common and easily trained, they are popular in falconry, although in the United States it’s illegal to capture adults for that purpose because they may be nurturing young.

Red-tailed hawks are protected in Canada, Mexico and the United States by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.

“Shooting them is a federal offense, and there’s a stiff fine,” Parent said.

According to the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, penalties can range as high as a $250,000 fine and two years in prison for a felony conviction.

“I just wanted to get the word out so people will watch what their neighbors are up to,” Parent said.

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