A young red-tailed shot by a pellet rifle on Tuesday was put down after wildlife officials determined its broken wing could not be repaired, police said.
Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife officials examined the hawk and found that its upper wing was broken, meaning the bird would never fly again. "The wing was not repairable and would never heal correctly," Medford police Lt. Mike Budreau said. "Unfortunately, the bird had to be euthanized."
Neighbors on Cherry Street on Tuesday reported hearing shots fired in the area in the afternoon.
Residents then spotted the hawk struggling in a tall cedar tree in the 600 block of Cherry Street.
The hawk plummeted from the tree and thumped down in a yard. It was bleeding from one wing, but was alive when police and wildlife officers arrived.
Medford officers used a range finder to determine how far away the suspected shooter was when the shot was fired.
The distance was at least 150 feet, which is reachable with a pellet rifle.
"The witnesses did not hear a really loud shot, which suggests it came from a pellet rifle," Budreau said.
The shot did not plow through the wing and into the bird's body, again suggesting a pellet rifle as opposed to something larger, Budreau said.
"We do have a witness that reported seeing two younger males in the area with what appeared to be a pellet rifle," Budreau said. "If anyone has any information on these two, we'd like to speak with them."
The suspects face potentially serious federal charges for killing a protected bird, Budreau said.
"We would conduct the investigation and then turn it over to a federal prosecutor," Budreau said. "Killing a protected bird carries a pretty stiff penalty in federal court."
In addition, the suspects face lesser charges of firing a gun in city limits and harassing wildlife, Budreau said.
Most birds in Oregon have some form of protection by state or federal laws from indiscriminate shooting, except starlings, rock doves and house sparrows. Everything else is either off-limits to shooting or is regulated by state hunting seasons. Those rules are outlined in the Oregon Game Bird Regulations booklets available at most sporting goods stores.
Reach reporter Chris Conrad at 541-776-4471 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.