OHSTAR Helps Red-Tailed Hawk

| Blog, Investigations / Rescue

Editor’s Note: This past weekend, on June 24, members of the all-volunteer OHS Technical Animal Rescue team (OHSTAR) responded to a call to help save a red-tailed hawk. The hawk had been observed stuck high up a tall tree in Vancouver.

The Audubon Society of Portland was contacted first about this hawk, which is the correct thing to do when a bird or other native urban wildlife is observed in distress. However, the location of this hawk required an experienced team with special rescue training and equipment. So, the Audubon representatives contacted OHSTAR, and the OHS volunteers were able to respond.

The hawk, trapped high up a tree.
The hawk, trapped high up a tree.

Contributed by John Thoeni, OHSTAR Volunteer

On Saturday afternoon, the Oregon Humane Society Technical Animal Rescue Team team got a call from the Audubon Society of Portland. A red-tailed hawk had been seen hanging from a tree in Vancouver for perhaps two days. The caller from the Audubon requested that OHSTAR try and help.

Scott, the person who had been monitoring the hawk and who first called Audubon, met OHSTAR team members John and Emily at the farm where he works. The hawk was about 35 feet up a tree, hanging on in an extremely unusual position. The hawk was still alive and there were three other hawks circling the area. The tree was climbable and so they decided to attempt a rescue.

Unfortunately, the tree was just behind the farm, which meant they either had to scale a 10-foot security fence with angled barbed wire on top (not happening), or walk around the outside perimeter. Either way it meant bushwhacking through solid eight-feet-tall blackberry brambles for about 25 yards.

With machete, loppers, heavy gloves, and all their gear in hand, John and Emily started plowing through the thick bramble wall that surrounded the tree where the hawk was. It took about 45 minutes to cut a trail through to the tree, and then another 15 minutes to clear a three-foot perimeter around the tree itself. With scratched and bloodied arms, they were quite happy to be finished with the brambles.

John approaches the hawk in the tree.

Finally having a space to work in, John and Emily got a line up into the tree and set up the climbing system. Reaching the hawk, John snapped a picture of it (it did not appear happy to see him). John scooted around to the other side of the tree so that he was working on its back side. Fortunately, Emily had remembered to bring a blanket, and once John had the hawk’s head covered and wings folded in, the hawk relaxed and John was able to figure out what was going on.

The hawk had one of its legs caught in a very narrow crevice in the tree, a crevice which was the bottom part of a larger hole. Its foot was stuck on the inside the narrow crevice, but was not injured. It seemed an easy task to lift the hawk’s leg up the crevice to the hole opening and then it would be free.

View of John and the hawk in its blanket, high up the tree.
View of John and the hawk in its blanket, high up the tree.

However, the leg wouldn’t budge and was so tightly wedged in that John feared breaking it if he applied any more pressure. Chipping away at the crevice opening with a knife was not yielding results.

Luckily, Scott had a hammer and chisel which John used to enlarge the crevice enough to be able to slide the hawk’s leg up and free it. Success, finally!

Holding the hawk, John moved the blanket and then tossed the hawk into the air. It flew off, almost literally into the sunset. John is fairly certain that after a few flaps it turned its head around and gave him a wink and a screech…

From the other OHSTAR team members: Kudos to Emily and John (JT) for a job well done, and to Scott for helping out and supplying much needed blackberry-whacking and tree-chiseling tools!

Photo Gallery

Read More About OHSTAR

Oregon Humane Society Technical Animal Rescue team (OHSTAR) Info »

Training with OHSTAR »

OHSTAR Rescues Injured Dog in Santiam Forest »

Christmas Rescue in Columbia Gorge »

Dog Rescued After Fall in Columbia Gorge »

Wildlife Agencies to Contact

If you observe a bird or other native wildlife in distress, these organizations can provide more information and assistance.

Audubon Society of Portland »

Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife »


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