Rush To Freedom

Jerry Osteraas releases the red-tail hawk near Pennock on Friday.

PENNOCK — Red-tailed hawks prey mainly on small field mice and other rodents, and are not known to target newspaper photographers.

That’s a fortunate fact for West Central Tribune photographer Ron Adams, who positioned himself in front of the box holding a red-tailed hawk released back into the wild near Pennock on Friday.

When volunteer Jerry Osteraas of Lake Lillian opened the box to free the captive, it burst directly ahead like a missile.

Our fearless photographer kept his composure, clicked the shutter and captured a wonderful image for it.

The red-tailed hawk had been found injured alongside Kandiyohi County Road 1 near Pennock and brought to the Raptor Center at the University of Minnesota, College of Veterinary Medicine on Oct. 22.

The adult male raptor had suffered a mild head trauma, and had mild damage to one of its eyes, according to Lori Arent, clinic manager. She said the bird recovered quickly with care there. Osteraas said the hawk was definitely feisty and wanted out of his box while he drove him to Pennock.

Osteraas is among the many volunteers who help the non-profit Raptor Center. He agreed to drive to Cokato on Friday to meet up with another volunteer who transferred the bird.

Raptors are facing an increasingly difficult world. Habitat loss and an accelerated spread of avian diseases are among the challenges they face. Add to that the inevitable collisions that come in a modern world where cars, power lines, and windows present hazards to the birds.

Arent said it is not known how this hawk was injured. It had a full stomach when brought to the clinic. It leads her to speculate that perhaps it was eating alongside the road, and was bumped by a passing vehicle as it hopped up. Collisions like this happen frequently, she noted.

The Raptor Center likes to see the birds released as close as possible to where they were found. Some juvenile red-tail hawks may migrate as winter approaches, but adults tend to remain territorial, said Arent.

If you happen to see a red-tailed hawk riding the updrafts and searching for prey near Pennock, it may just be this bird. And no, there will be no photographer’s fedora caught in its talons. Ron Adams kept both his composure and his hat.

The Raptor Center relies greatly on volunteers and financial support from contributors. It rehabilitates more than 700 sick and injured raptors every year. Once the snow stays, Arent said the Center will only release bald eagles. It pays the cost to care and feed the other raptors through the winter.

It is among the Minnesota non-profits who will benefit by the Give to the Max online fund drive on November 14. Contributions to the Raptor Center during the drive will be matched by up to a $53,000 matching grant it has been offered, according to Arent.