Hawk Caught in Truck Grille Dies Despite Efforts of Wildlife Rescuers

JEFFERSON CO., Pa. (EYT) – Despite the efforts of a local wildlife rescuer, a hawk who flew into the grille of a truck on Interstate 80 died at a wildlife rehabilitation facility.

Humane Officer and licensed wildlife capture and transporter Deb McAndrew received a surprising call on Wednesday night.

It was around 9:30 p.m. on Wednesday, August 25, when Jefferson County Humane Officer Deb McAndrew received a call from Wildlife In Need (WIN), an organization with certified volunteers who provide assistance with wildlife concerns, including capture and transport of orphaned and injured wildlife to wildlife rehab centers.

WIN had been contacted by a truck driver who reached out to them via the Pennsylvania State Police after discovering that he had an injured bird, later identified as a juvenile red-tailed hawk, caught in the grille of his truck.

The driver reported seeing the hawk come toward his truck approximately 50 miles from where he had stopped. At the time, he thought the bird had deflected off the truck, as they often do, and didn’t realize it had been struck until he stopped at the rest stop near Reynoldsville on Interstate 80 westbound.

After speaking to the driver, WIN reached out to McAndrew, a licensed capture and transporter for wildlife through the Pennsylvania Game Commission.

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McAndrew quickly made her way to the rest stop after receiving the call, then donned her thick leather hawk gloves to protect her hands and forearms, preparing to try to help the distressed bird.

When she got a close look at the situation, she discovered the bird had gone through the grille of the truck feet-first and was gripping the radiator with its talons, which prevented her from easily pulling the bird out.

“He was pretty out of it, but he was still hanging on for dear life,” McAndrew told exploreClarion.com.

Undaunted, she ended up reaching into the gap in the grille above the bird, then slowly and carefully prying its talons off the radiator, and allowing it to grab onto her gloved hand instead.

“I just had to give him something else to hold onto while we maneuvered his body.”

Then, with the assistance of the driver and another driver who offered to help, she was able to push the bird slightly further forward into an open space and then lower it down through an area where the driver had removed several screws to help get it out.

She noted it took some time to get first his head and then his body and wings carefully through the opening without risking further injury, but they were able to eventually free the bird.

However, by the time they had the bird out of the truck grille, it was after 10:00 p.m. – too late for any wildlife rehabilitation centers to be open. Fortunately, being a sub-permittee under Centre Wildlife Care, McAndrew holds a special permit to house wildlife, short-term, until they can be transported to a rehab facility.

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Unfortunately, despite the efforts of McAndrews and the other rescuers, while the hawk did reach the rehab facility successfully on Thursday morning, it passed away on Friday. Nonetheless, McAndrews noted it was still a better outcome than many of the other possibilities.

“The driver could have just left it there and kept driving, but he took the time out of his route to call the police and wait for a rescuer to arrive.

“And for me, it’s sometimes about getting an animal to a rehab center and allowing it to pass peacefully and without pain, if it can’t survive.”

This particular rescue was also a new experience for McAndrew, who has been doing wildlife capture and transportation since December of 2012.

“This was the first time I’ve ever had to actually pull an adult animal in distress out of something that way.”

McAndrew noted that she first got involved in wildlife capture and transportation when her daughters were students at Penn State, one studying wildlife and fisheries and the other studying animal science, and both volunteering with Centre Wildlife Care, which has programs for students.

Through her daughters, McAndrew was introduced to Robyn Graboski, of Centre Wildlife Care, and became more and more interested in getting involved in wildlife work. Graboski is now McAndrew’s sponsoring licensed wildlife rehabber.

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She was then able to take a class and a test for certification to work with Centre Wildlife and WIN doing wildlife capture and transportation. She has continued to take classes every two years to keep up her certification through the Game Commission ever since.

“I’ve had a case involving an animal struck by a car before, but it was just laying along the road. The majority of the other cases I’ve handled are found wildlife, most often babies, but this was my first extraction. I’ve just never run into a situation quite like it before,” McAndrew said.


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