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Rescued Red-tailed Hawk

By Dr. Scott Ford

I’m still doing duck work in North Dakota but today took an interesting turn. My assistant, Alex Carrillo, found a family of red-tailed hawks alongside the road but one was clearly injured. He rescued it & brought it back to the RV we’re using as a mobile clinic.

An exam revealed a freshly fractured left wing. The bird is probably a tiercel based on the small feet & size (825g & in good body condition). The fracture involves the ulna and radius so it will require pinning to permanently fix it, but it carries a pretty good prognosis considering it’s very fresh. I gave him a good dose of analgesic (butorphanol) and a sedative (midazolam) then we anesthetized with isoflurane him to clean the wound, push the bones back into place, flush the site, and suture the wound closed. It’s important with open fractures to keep the bone ends clean and viable by keeping them covered with skin. Then I wrapped the wing to the body for temporary support. It’s a juvenile & probably was hit by a car. As a finishing touch, we gave fluids & a long-acting antibiotic.

The hawk under anesthesia just after cleaning, suturing, and wrapping the wing

I didn’t bring equipment & supplies for orthopedic surgery so I need to find another veterinarian or wildlife rehabilitators that can take it from here. Unfortunately, North Dakota has zero wildlife rehabilitators. In fact, they stopped issuing rehab permits over 10 years ago. If anyone knows what folks do with injured wildlife here, please let us know. Meanwhile, I’m in touch with the state wildlife vet to see what options are. I’ve never run into this in any other state—quite a surprise. Hopefully we aren’t faced w/euthanizing him.

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