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Krepps Hawk taken down by pellet gun; vet forced to euthanize injured bird

Somewhere within the wooded periphery of Krepps Park, a red-shouldered hawk is waiting for her mate to return to their nest.

Sadly, she’s waiting in vain.

Her mate, which had suffered a compound fracture of his wing after being shot by a pellet gun, was euthanized last week after it became clear he would never recover from the injury.

Dr. Jesse Fallon, director of veterinary medicine for the Avian Conservation Center of Appalachia, performed the procedure Dec. 28.

That was after people found the injured bird near Crockett’s Lodge in Star City and rushed him to the center, a nonprofit advocacy group for the feathered set on Fairchance Road.

The center’s Injured Bird Hotline is 304-906-5438.

Fallon co-founded the center in 2012 with his wife, Katie, an author and ornithological expert.

Since then, the center has rescued and nursed to health hundreds of birds.

That includes a rare Snowy Owl from the Arctic Circle — plucked from a highway overpass in Vienna, Wood County.

An encounter with a car left the owl also with a broken wing, but its injuries weren’t as severe as the red-shouldered hawk’s.

“This is obviously what we don’t want to do,” Fallon said, of the decision to end the bird’s life.

“He was in really bad shape,” the veterinarian continued. “He was emaciated. The exposed bone didn’t look good. He wasn’t going to be able to fly or do anything for himself.”

The hawk was wearing a metal leg band and his mate is, too. That’s courtesy of the avian center, which banded the pair three years ago.

Their territory was Krepps Park and the Suncrest area, where they hunted — mainly snakes, lizards and small rodents — while producing a clutch of eggs every season.

They were a couple, Katie Fallon said, which makes the passing all the more poignant.

“Red-shouldered hawks are strong ‘pair-bonders,’” she said.

“They mate for life, and that means the Krepps Park female has lost the partner she’s been with for years.”

“Even if you didn’t ‘know’ them, you’ve seen them,” Jesse Fallon said. “They’re Morgantown residents.”

Red-shouldered hawks also cut a real presence in the air.

They’re medium-sized and slim, with rusty-red markings on their wings that give them their name.

They can grow up to two feet while weighing as much as 27 ounces. Wing spans can range from 37 to 43 inches.

Red-shouldered hawks go airborne with their wingtips pushed slightly forward and they have a distinct “kee-ah” cry.

You’ll find them from West Virginia to the state of Washington.

And, as Jesse Fallon said, the birds are homebodies. They’ll stay in their territory for decades.

This particular red-shouldered hawk was doing what every other member of species does: Minding his own business, while simply hunting what he hunts.

“They’re not a threat to you or your pets,” the veterinarian said.

Red-shouldered hawks are protected under the federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act, and persons caught illegally trapping or killing birds can face jail time and fines of thousands of dollars.

However, he said, it’s never easy to enforce — especially with a random incident such as last week at Krepps Park.

“This was a sad case of someone being irresponsible with a pellet gun.”

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