Date: 1/31/19 7:36 am
From: Ryan Maclean via CTBirds <ctbirds...>
Subject: [CT Birds] Maine Great Black Hawk - Sad News
Since I know many of you have been following, this update was posted to
Avian Haven's Facebook page this morning that the difficult decision has
been made to euthanize the Great Black Hawk. Very sad news for alot of us
who went to see this bird. If anyone wishes to make a donation to Avian
Haven they have a page set up here:

-Ryan MacLean

Audubon Greenwich

Great Black Hawk - 1/31

Yesterday, our senior staff met onsite with two additional veterinarians as
well as two wildlife biologists from the Bird Group of Maine’s Department
of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife. Diagnostic tests that included infrared
thermography and doppler ultrasound revealed no circulation at all in the
feet or lower legs up to where leg feathers can be seen in the photo posted
on Tuesday. Underneath the bandages, both feet were discolored and
beginning to decompose. As of yesterday, the bird was lying down during the
day, not just overnight, and was not eating as well as previously.

Frostbite is well known for its insidious progression. When the body’s
cells freeze, they expand, burst, and then die. Cells that form skin,
muscles, nerves, tendons, and blood vessels are all affected, and once
those cells die, they cannot be brought back to life. The goal of frostbite
treatment is to limit further tissue death, though the success or failure
of those efforts may not be apparent for several weeks or even months.
Based on how rapidly the hawk’s feet deteriorated, we suspect that the
initial frostbite damage occurred well before the bird was found on the
ground on January 20, when frozen feet and associated pain had likely
resulted in an inability to perch. Although he may not have appeared to be
in distress in the few days prior to his rescue, any injured wild animal
will hide discomfort until unable to compensate.

Our treatment efforts followed the most up-to-date protocols in human and
veterinary medicine. Sadly, however, because foot and leg tissues had
already been irreparably damaged, those efforts came too late. For those of
you who have asked, our treatment plan included topical applications to
enhance skin viability, plus a suite of medications to control pain and
promote blood flow to extremities: western/conventional drugs, herbal
formulations, and homeopathic remedies. We also used low level (“cold”)
laser treatments.

Of course, we had hoped that the frostbite damage would be minor and that
the bird might be releasable. Once the extent of the damage became obvious,
possibilities for prosthetics use and captive placement were discussed at
length. In this bird’s case, neither option was realistic. First of all,
the damage was too extensive: both legs as well as both feet had been
damaged. Secondly, animals that adapt best to prosthetics are not only less
severely affected, but they are also of calm temperament, comfortable
around people, and used to being handled. None of us could even remotely
imagine a reasonable quality of life for a wild bird having two artificial
legs that would need frequent adjustment, and that would likely never be
completely comfortable. Related hawk species present in North America are
known for their high-strung, hyperactive temperaments, and this bird has
been no exception to that general rule. During the hawk’s stay here, we
often had to turn off the cage lights to discourage challenges to the cage
walls. The wildlife professionals who met yesterday all agreed that the
Great Black Hawk would never successfully adapt to captivity, especially
without even one foot that could be used in a natural way to perch, grasp
food, or land successfully after flight.

The decision to euthanize was completely unanimous among all who gathered
here yesterday, though that decision was tinged with regret, sorrow, even
heartbreak. It was seen by some of us as an end of suffering, and by others
as the release of a spirit from its hopelessly damaged shell. Either way,
all of us believed it was the only course of action that was fair to the

Although greatly saddened that this beautiful hawk could not be saved, we
take some comfort in knowing that she or he touched a great many lives,
bringing people together and inspiring a greater interest in the natural
world. Although this was an extreme case of species displacement, with
changing climate and increasing destruction of natural habitats, it is
likely that we will see more and more animals dispersing from their
homelands into territory they are not well adapted to. A decision as to
what will happen to the remains has not been made, though several
scientific institutions are under consideration. Genetic studies may
finally reveal the original home of this remarkable visitor to Maine.

All of us at Avian Haven extend our profound appreciation to all of you for
the good wishes, prayers, love, and support that have poured in during this
remarkable bird’s stay here. We intend to dedicate your donations toward
funding a special project that will enhance our ability to care for future
birds, whether or not they are frostbite victims. For us, and for many of
you as well, today will be a day of grieving, but also of imagining this
extraordinary Great Black Hawk flying free again in some realm other than
our own.
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