Though Fridays are usually a welcome part of the work week, Ashland resident Connie Saldaņa left her job Friday at the Rogue Valley Council of Governments in Central Point with a heavy heart.

Though Fridays are usually a welcome part of the work week, Ashland resident Connie Saldaña left her job Friday at the Rogue Valley Council of Governments in Central Point with a heavy heart.

Headed to Wildlife Images near Grants Pass to surrender a falcon she'd rescued during her vacation in Central Oregon last week, Saldaña admitted she'd grown slightly attached.

"He'd obviously had a run-in with a car and he was just lying there," said Saldaña. "His entire left side was paralyzed and he was pretty out of it the first few days."

At first, Saldaña tried to make the falcon comfortable, offering water and eventually raw chicken to help build strength.

Within days, she found herself scavenging local stores for crickets and worms and allowing her feathered pal, nicknamed "Rafael" for two mustache marks on his face, to hang out in a backyard aviary when he wasn't busy inspecting her every move.

Friday, Rafael sat confidently on his foster mom's finger, unaware he'd soon head out on an adventure that could include surgery, rehabilitation or life at Wildlife Images.

"You can tell he's feeling better because he's cleaning himself," Saldaña noted, as the bird looked up to check on his rescuer's location.

While she wishes the bird could stick around longer, Saldaña, an admitted bird lover, said she hoped that Wildlife Images could help the falcon heal.

Wildlife Images receptionist Rebecca Stoltz said the kestrel found by Saldaña is the second for the shelter this year, compared to nine kestrels (out of more than 400 animals) received last year.

Stoltz said Images tries to educate the public to not adopt wild birds as pets and, if they are found or rescued from injury, to call Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife officials or the Oregon State Police as soon as possible.

"For the most part, we do ask people to call us, or the authorities, before anything is done," she said. "When picking them up on the road we ask that you wear very thick gloves and to take precautions. Raptors can be aggressive, especially when injured."

Saldaña's act of mercy may have saved the bird's life, but it also limited its chances for a return to the wild.

"She shouldn't have kept him for a week," Stoltz said. "The fact he's become imprinted (on a human) does not help him at all. The sooner we can provide treatment for injuries in cases like this, the better."

Rick Hargrave, ODFW information and education manager, said Saldaña's motives seemed genuine enough that she was unlikely to face any penalties.

"I think the intention was to find a place to take care of the bird and, in a nutshell, she went about doing things the right way," he said.

"So now we have one saved kestrel. That's pretty cool."

Buffy Pollock is a freelance writer living in Medford. E-mail her at buffypollock@juno.com.