Throw Out your Poisons — Very Carefully by Kristine Flones


By Kristine Flones

“Ho Mitakuye Oyasin” is the Lakota phrase that translates as “all my relations”.  In using these words we honor our connectedness to all life, and the sacredness of the entire circle of life.

A couple of weeks ago my neighbor, Jackie Kukle came to get me to catch an eagle that was just sitting on the road by her house.  I gathered my raptor gloves, heavy towels, nets and a large dog kennel, scolding myself for not having bought the large bird net that would handle an eagle, and took off down the road trying to keep myself centered so that I might somehow catch an eagle with a butterfly net and a towel.  Arriving at Jackie’s house, I found Woodstock Police and several people waiting.  They had chased the bird into the woods trying to catch her or get her off the road.  I asked the policemen to help me, knowing that it is a piece of work to catch such a bird even if they can’t fly.  I passed towels around and we went into the woods.  There she was sitting on a log: a truly huge and magnificent female red tailed hawk.  She was only a few months old because she still had her new brown tail feathers.  The red tails don’t come until the second year.   

Moonlight the Barred Owl

She didn’t have an obvious injury.  I felt that I might be able to catch her if I approached obliquely and very slowly with a calm energy.  I asked the others to step back as I moved closer.  There had to be something terribly wrong for me to be within ten feet of her.  She wasn’t alert looking about for an escape.  Her eyes were cast down and her expression was one of misery.  I let her feel my energy before taking each step as she was looking away.  When I was within four feet she turned around to face me.  There was a resignation in her eyes.  Gently, gently I moved up to her showing her my bath towel “skirt” that I had wrapped around me.  When I saw and felt that she acquiesced I carefully raised the towel and dropped it over her, scooping her up in my arms.  Oh my, she weighed no more than a crow!  How did such a young hawk get so emaciated? 

      Everyone was relieved that I had caught her and there were many wishes for her recovery and her life.  This was not to be.  Despite our best efforts the female red tail hawk whose name was Phoenix did not make it.  She died the next afternoon.  Her story is a familiar one to wildlife rehabilitators and naturalists.  You see Phoenix died of mouse poison.  She is at the NY State Pathology lab where her tissues are being sampled to check for the poison that kills so many wild ones every year.  This is how it works:  people put out the tiny green pellets of mouse or rat poison in their attics and basements.  The mice collect the sweet smelling pellets and save many of them, but eat one.  The mouse or mice leave the house desperate for air as their systems close down from the poison.  The hawks, owls and the snakes see the weak mouse and eat it.  A few days later they are in the same state as the mouse.  They are bigger so their death takes longer, but eventually their blood vessels dilate and the blood leaks out.  It leaks out of their hearts, too.  They die a sad, miserable death.  Along comes a crow, a vulture or a raven, the carrion eaters.  They eat the hawk or the owl.  They too will die of this poison that is made for mice and rats.  And so on. 

       Her name was Phoenix.  This is an opportunity to give her life again to match her name.  Please go through your storage areas and gather up this poison and triple bag it before taking it to the RRA for toxic disposal.  Surely there is no longer a need for a poison such as this.  The hawk, the owl and the snake are among our natural rodent control devices in this world.  Obviously, the poison is also extremely dangerous for children, adults and for our pets as well as for our community water supply.

       Ravensbeard Wildlife Center was founded by Ellen Kalish and Kristine Flones.  Ellen Kalish has been rehabbing for five years.  She specializes in birds, especially raptors and waterfowl.  Kristine Flones has been rehabbing for four years.  She will take most species, but loves to work with... raptors, crows, woodchucks, fox, bluejays, snapping turtles, vultures, and bears!  Bears?  Yes, Ravensbeard has a special program on Coexisting with Black Bears, as well as on other topics of interest. 


PO Box 463, Bearsville, NY 12409    Website will completed soon.

A few helpful hints from Kristine:

In general, do not disturb a wild animal unless it is clearly an emergency.  Wounded animals should be handled with great care, protecting oneself from talons, teeth, thrashing legs, or whatever.  Items to have in your car for emergencies are:  a large sturdy box or dog carrier, heavy bath towel, heavy work gloves, small shovel, a couple of plastic bags.  If you have caught an injured animal keep him or her in a dark, quiet, warm place.  Do not give it anything to drink or eat until you speak with a rehabilitator.  Do not trust info on the web.

“It is not a case of survival of the fittest ...It is rather a case of flourishment of the most cooperative.”  -- Ken Casey in “The Return of the Bird Tribes.”