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Wildlife Images sees a spike in shot animals

This injured hawk is among 10 wild birds that have been brought in to Wildlife Images Rehabilitation and Education Center in Grants Pass with gunshots this year. The animal is recovering, but the nonprofit says its prognosis is unclear. [Wildlife Images photo]

A Grants Pass wildlife rehabilitation nonprofit says it has had more animals brought in with gunshot wounds this year than the two prior years combined.

So far in 2021, Wildlife Images Rehabilitation and Education Center has taken in 10 wild animals with gunshot wounds, according Jen Osburn-Eliot, the nonprofit’s animal services manager.

“In 2020, we only had two gunshot animals,” Osburn-Eliot said. In 2019, we only had three, so we’re up a lot.“

Three of the animals shot were Canada geese injured during hunting season, according to Osburn-Eliot. The seven other animals included three red-tailed hawks and a “good amount” of black ravens.

“Of those, only one was released,” Osburn-Eliot said.

Wildlife Images rehabilitated one injured Canada goose in January and released it back into the wild, and veterinarians are in the early stages of treating a male red-tailed hawk brought in Oct. 19 from Central Point.

The hawk had two bullet fragments in its wings: one in the animal’s muscle that was removed and another that will stay inside the bird.

Compared to how a gunshot typically injures a wild bird, Osburn-Eliot called the bone where the second fragment landed a “lucky spot.”

“The wing is healing around it,” Osburn-Eliot said. “It’s going to be a long road to recovery, including physical therapy and flight conditioning, but we’re going to see how he does.”

Wildlife Images’ goal is always to return the animals they rehabilitate back into the wild, according to Osburn-Eliot. It’s too soon, however, to say what kind of future the hawk will have until it heals further and veterinarians can get a better idea of its range of motion.

“Our fancy term is, ‘The prognosis is guarded,’” Osburn-Eliot said.

With the other wounded birds, veterinarians had to euthanize the animals.

“It’ll completely shatter bones,” Osburn-Eliot said of the typical gunshot injury on a wild bird. “It’s too far past what we can try to heal.”

Ravens are often targeted because the dark birds are easy to spot in broad daylight, and they often go after people’s crops.

"Red-tailed hawks tend to be common targets because they’re going to go after chickens,“ Osburn-Eliot said. ”So they just shoot them.“

According to Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife spokeswoman Meghan Dugan, the injured hawk being treated may be referred to Oregon State Police as a poaching investigation.

ODFW does not offer any haze or kill permits for birds of prey, Dugan stated in an email. All native migratory birds are protected by federal law, and it is illegal to injure or kill them.

Dugan highlighted an ODFW “Living with Wildlife” page, which states that it’s common for birds of prey such as hawks to perch in trees and fences near homes. State wildlife officials say the hawks are not a danger to people or pets, and typically stay “only for a short time.”

“However, if a hawk or owl shows up in your yard and you would like it to leave, waving, shouting or banging pots together will usually chase the bird away,” the ODFW page states.

Osburn-Eliot said enforcing such cases can be “very hard to track down” unless law enforcement sees it happen.

ODFW and Wildlife Images encourage people having issues with wild birds on their property to reach out to them for ways to shoo the wild animals away without injuring them.

As one example, Osburn-Eliot said that many vineyards will keep birds away from their crops by playing sounds the birds don’t like.

Wildlife Images can be reached by phone at 541-476-0222, and ODFW can be reached at 503-947-6000 or odfw.info@odfw.oregon.gov.

Reach web editor Nick Morgan at 541-776-4471 or nmorgan@rosebudmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @MTwebeditor.