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Hawk shootings remain a mystery

Separate incidents of shot hawks, a federal crime, attract Oregon State Police to Forest Grove


by: COURTESY PHOTO - This red-tailed hawk is dead now. Kennedy Morgan, a resident of Forest Grove, found it injured in her yard. Jude Lichtenstein’s yellow lab Kaiya had found something.

Heading toward the Douglas fir forest on her property near Stringtown Road two weeks ago, Lichtenstein watched Kaiya sniffing and acting strangely.

Suddenly Lichtenstein saw it: a red-tailed hawk sitting on a stump. Normally an impressive predator with sharp talons and a four-foot wingspan that it closes when diving towards its small, furry prey, this hawk was in sorry shape. Its head was skinned, its feathers ruffled, its mouth open — but silent.

As Kaiya approached it, the bird shuffled around and lost its balance. Lichtenstein left it alone, but the next day, when she saw it sitting in the same area, she wrapped it in a towel, placed it in a cardboard box and drove it to the Portland Audubon Society’s Wildlife Care Center.

An Audubon staff member called later to say the bird had been shot and its injuries were too severe. It had died.

“We put up perches to attract raptors so they could feed safely here and keep our gopher population down,” said Lichtenstein. “That makes this all the more heartbreaking.”

The red-tail was one of at least three hawks that died from gunshots or suspected gunshots in the Forest Grove area since December.

Oregon State Police Senior Trooper Roger Reid, who is working on the case, said it’s unusual to have three raptors shot in such a short time in the same area.

Hawks are federally protected birds. People who intentionally harm hawks and other raptors can be prosecuted in state or federal courts and risk punishment of up to one year in jail and a $6,000 fine.

Reid is knocking on doors for information and alerting neighbors to the suspicious activity, hoping to piece together any clues that might help catch the culprit.

“Hawks are a public resource. When they’re shot, they’re taken from everybody who enjoys nature,” said Reid, who has seen wildlife killings of almost every kind, from big game to aquatic life.

A week before Kaiyla sniffed out Lichtenstein’s hawk, Kennedy Morgan experienced almost the same thing when her Great Dane and Pomeranian started barking in the yard of her Hawthorne Street home. Morgan went out to investigate and found a red-tailed hawk.

“It wasn’t moving, it was just lying there,” she said.

She wrapped a towel around the bird and the wing it was extending, put it in a dog crate and drove it to Dove Lewis Animal Hospital, which transferred it to the Audubon Care Center.

Like Lichtenstein's hawk, the bird Morgan found had been shot as well and had to be euthanized.

Deb Schaffer was the veterinarian who tried to save the two hawks. “It’s sad to see them come in like that,” she said. “It’s illegal and inhumane.”

According to Lacey Campbell of the Portland Audubon Society, red-tailed hawks can live 10 to 20 years in the wild — once they make it past their first year, when an estimated 50 percent die. The society’s Wildlife Care Center admitted 62 red-tails in 2012 that were injured in a variety of ways.

by: NEWS-TIMES PHOTO: CHASE ALLGOOD - Jude Lichtenstein and her yellow Lab Kayia pause on her Forest Grove property, where they recently found an injured red-tailed hawk. The hawk Lichtenstein brought in had shotgun ammunition in his wing and its head was scraped. Morgan’s bird had pellet ammunition in its chest, a broken leg and a fractured wing.

In early December, Morgan’s neighbor, Pat Christensen, found a Cooper’s Hawk--a much smaller raptor, common in neighborhoods — lying in her yard under a large oak tree. Christensen didn't check it for signs of ammunition, but it was bleeding from the head.

“It was dead, but still warm,” she said. “We didn’t know what else to do so we wrapped it up and put it in the trash can.”

Christensen puts up bird feeders in her yard to attract winged wildlife. A few years ago, she kept track of a pair of Cooper hawks making a nest in the neighbor’s tree, and watched four baby hawks hatch out of the eggs and eventually fly away.

“It was so beautiful,” Christensen said, hoping the bird she found dead wasn’t one she watched grow up. “It’s really sad to see them killed.”




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