Thursday, March 31, 2016


I've not written for awhile.  My heart has just not been in the whole effort to blog lately.  It is time now to write about this, and then move on.

My 2015/2016 hawking season came to a crashing halt at the beginning of February, first with a toe injury to Wyvern, and then the very unexpected and sudden death of Sassy.  I was back up at the Raptor Center this past week and received back all the gear she was wearing when I brought her to them, hoping they could figure out what was wrong.  She died shortly after I got her there.  They thought possibly heart failure, as the x-ray showed an enlarged heart, and she had profound hypoxia, gasping for air even once she was placed on high oxygen.  After her death, I requested they perform a necropsy, to hopefully determine a cause.  The results surprised both myself and her vet.

Brain, hemorrhage, acute, subdural, mild to moderate.

Comments: The subdural hemorrhage is suggestive of a blunt force trauma. However, it is unclear whether this lesion may have been the initial event or may have been a terminal event.

Somehow this fantastic bird, in the confines of her 10 x 10 mew, gathered enough speed and struck something hard enough to cause a brain bleed which resulted in her death.  It had to have been in her mew, as we had not been hunting the previous 10 days due to it being too cold for the hawks.  I had noticed, and I don't remember if it was the day of or the previous day, that the tip of her beak was broke off.  She struck something in her mew hard enough to crack off the tip, and sustained a bleed that killed her.

She has been a fantastic game hawk, and I'm going to miss her.

I am left now with Wyvern, who will need some more work, and Flint, who will need a lot of work.  I was so enjoying the cast of Sassy and Wyvern, and I was a little lazy, relying on Sassy's calm manner and commanding presence to keep Wyvern close and working on the team.  Wyvern is quite a lot more wild, so will need some manning for next season.  For now, both she and Flint have been fed up and are moody and difficult, and want nothing to do with me.  I've increased the hours of light in their mew to push the molt to get started.  We can't hunt, we might as well get the molt going.

As far as Wyvern's injury, she is still getting care for a squirrel bite to one of her feet, the left, which is healing nicely, but then something else to the right foot.  Her vet thinks it is frost bite, but I wonder at that because why would it have been only for one toe.  During the cold of January, the 10-day spell that confined my birds in their mew, and when sometime Sassy sustained her injury, we did have a power outage in the heating unit in the mew.  I noticed afterward this toe looking red and Wyvern favoring it in pain which is what alerted me that something was wrong.  There was also a nick on that toe, and it is possible the blood flow was compromised, and then the cold did the final damage.  Either way, she is going to lose this toe.  Hawks have very slow circulation in their feet, which is why an injury takes so long to heal.  We have been waiting and treating conservatively, with foot soaks and moisturizing cream on the foot, waiting to know exactly where the necrotic tissue begins.  Soon, I will make an appointment to have that amputated.  I could wait to see if it will fall off on its own, but I think I would like to have a clean and stitched wound.

She should have full use of that foot once it is healed.  I'm just going to need to focus her hunting efforts towards rabbits.  Strangely enough, this year she did not catch one.  She tried very hard, but Sassy always got there first.  However, she did show a great zeal for hunting squirrels.  I'm going to have to discourage that to prevent further toe injury.

For squirrels, I'm just going to need to get myself a big Red Tail next season.  That would also give me an option for hunting when the temperature is lower than 30.  I hope to get Wyvern and Flint working together next year as a cast.  I'll be tethering them out close to each other, and I have a new mew which just needs a little more work to be finished.  It is a two-chamber mew that will allow the birds to see each other up close, and get acquainted, but without being in the same chamber.  That's the plan anyway.

With hawking, you can experience the great highs when your birds fly well and catch game, and you can have the devastating lows when a bird's life is cut short, or you get a curveball with a bad injury.  It is all part of this sport I love.  You take the bad with the good, and hope through planning and work and training that there are more good days.