Red hawk down

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Oleksandra G. Manko
  • Nellis AFB Public Affairs
A typical Thursday morning routine at Building 11 was abruptly interrupted July 5 when a large bird crash-landed underneath the overhang connecting it with the command section. The intruder attempted to make it straight to the base commander's office, but was halted by the heavy glass door, eyewitnesses said.

The bird was obviously not well. Its wings hung loosely and it seemed it had a hard time staying awake. Maj. Derrick Keys, 99th Air Base Wing Plans and Programs, brought it some water and all anxiously awaited the arrival of the environmentalists from the 99th Civil Engineer Squadron, who were expected to come in and save the day at any moment.

Around 1:30 p.m., the Nellis pest management arrived and transported the winged fellow in a large cage to their facility situated in Area 3. Ann Bedlion, the base natural resources specialist, took a look at the bird and, after consulting over the phone with Bob Turner, the natural resources manager, recognized the patient to be a juvenile red-tailed hawk suffering a heat stress. Her recommendations were an air-conditioned room, some stew meat, a large bowl of water and complete darkness.

"Normally hawks get as high as they possibly can and cool themselves down as the air gets exponentially cooler with altitude," explained Mrs. Bedlion. "It's not a very common thing [for birds to get heat stress]. He probably hasn't eaten and overheated."

Indeed, upon closer examination the bird appeared to be severely underweight. Instead of being released the next morning, as was originally planned, the young hawk was transferred to the Wild Wing Project Wildlife Rehabilitation Center, where it will be taken care of over the next few weeks.

Judging by the absence of the characteristic red tail-feathers and a dark line across the bird's chest, it probably hatched this spring and had barely left the nest, said Mr. Turner.

As for the pest management folks, although it was the first hawk they had to shelter, taking care of animals is nothing new to them. Their eight-person office (two of whom are currently deployed) handles pest infestations around the base and responds to calls about various life forms from stray cats to snakes and spiders.

Captured wildlife is taken out to the desert and released. Cats and dogs are handed over to Las Vegas Animal Control. Sometimes, if caught later in the day, an animal has to stay overnight, in which case it is kept in the building and given food. Pest management personnel raise money for animal snacks by selling ice cream and soda to each other, said Senior Airman Lozano, laughing.

In the summertime, they get seven to 10 calls a day just for bug infestation, said Staff Sgt. John Ochoa, pest management and entomology specialist. Controlling bird population around the flightline is another important duty of theirs.

Sometimes the pest management office gets requests for dead bird pick up.

"Some people think that there might be some kind of disease threat and they are afraid to pick it up themselves, but when we get there we do the same thing anyone else would do - pick it up through a plastic bag, throw it into a trash can and wash our hands afterwards," said Sergeant Ochoa.

Fortunately, thanks to the common efforts of Nellis natural resources and pest management specialists, that was not the fate of the young hawk who sought help at the command section building that day.