GRAND FORKS AIR FORCE BASE, N.D. --
A Swainson’s hawk was released from a raptor rehabilitation center dedicated to birds of prey at the Dakota Zoo November 15, 2018, in Bismarck, North Dakota, after being rescued at Grand Forks Air Force Base a month prior.
Munitions inspectors David Watnemoe, Chad Sherod and Rose Guzman with the 319th Logistics Readiness Squadron found the hawk around 5 p.m. near munitions storage while leaving from work September 4 on Grand Forks AFB.
“We saw the injured hawk near the gate of the munitions storage area and went to see if we could help in any way,” Watnemoe said. “I feared it had a neck injury, as it was unable to fly or keep its head up.”
Watnemoe and his colleagues attempted to call multiple offices to include the North Dakota Game and Fish Department, the raptor rehabilitation center at the Dakota Zoo and a local wildlife office, but all were closed for the day.
“There was nothing we could do that night but hope it would make it through the night,” Watnemoe explained.
Upon arriving to work the next morning, Watnemoe said he and his coworkers were happy to see the hawk was still there, which they gathered to keep safe while they continued to call around for someone to help.
The munitions employees got ahold of Joshua Kuechle, a United States Department of Agriculture Wildlife Services biologist, embedded in the 319th Air Base Wing safety office.
“They called me to share information about this injured hawk near munitions storage, and asked if I would come take it,” Kuechle said. “I brought it back to my office so I could evaluate it and determine if it could be saved.”
Kuechle said he thought the hawk had a fighting chance, and began to call around in search of a raptor rehabilitation center.
“The Dakota Zoo in Bismarck was the only option, because there are no other designated raptor rehabilitation centers in the state of North Dakota,” Kuechle mentioned.
After getting in touch with the Dakota Zoo, a transfer plan was scheduled for the hawk: Kuechle would drive to an established halfway point more than 100 miles from Grand Forks in order to hand the bird over to a fellow USDA Wildlife Services coworker, Ryan Powers.
Terry Lincoln, Dakota Zoo director, said the treatment regimen for the hawk began as soon as the bird was received.
“The 30-day treatment included daily administration of antibiotics, intravenous fluids and drugs to relieve swelling in the brain,” Lincoln explained. “At the end of those 30 days the bird was moved to a larger flight pen, where he was encouraged to fly several laps daily.”
With several weeks and constant improvement for his ability to fly, the hawk was deemed 100 percent recovered from his infliction, and was released on November 15 in a wooded area near Bismarck.
Lincoln offered his praise to Kuechle, Watnemoe, Sherod and Guzman for their sense of urgency when reaching out to save the bird.
“The Dakota Zoo appreciates the personnel at Grand Forks Air Force Base who found the bird and sought help for it quickly,” he said.