Local News

VINS releases rehabilitated red-tailed hawk


By Curt Peterson

About a dozen of Ed Finley’s neighbors and friends were gathered by their vehicles on a Clay Hill Road meadow in Hartland to witness release of a red-tailed hawk that had been rehabilitated at Vermont Institute of Natural Science (VINS). The event was a unique memorial dedicated to Finley, resident on Clay Hill Road and long-time board member of Greater Upper Valley Trout Unlimited, who passed away at 75 on Feb. 28. 

For 20 years, Finley managed an annual youth event named for late VINS supporter David Chang, where GUVTU members teach kids how to cast, tie flies and catch stocked fish in a local pond. This year’s Chang Memorial will be held on Sept. 23.

The bird, of undetermined gender, mysteriously fell from the sky near the site on Feb. 27, one day before Finley’s death. Obviously wounded, it was taken to VINS for treatment immediately. VINS tries to release its recovered patients near where they are found.

After a brief introduction by Charles Rattigan, VINS executive director, Grae O’Toole, director of VINS’ wild bird rehabilitation program, opened a cardboard carrier and, wearing protective gloves, displayed the hawk for onlookers, a few of whom were waiting with phone cameras to capture the actual release.

The raptor wasted no time, flying to a large pine at the far end of the meadow. Within seconds other birds, including blue jays, crows and chickadees, set up a cacophony of warning shrieks. One bird took a threatening dive at the hawk, still apparently getting its bearings after four months of captivity and treatment.

O’Toole, who earned her degree in biology and environmental studies at University of Wisconsin/Racine, said hawks’ aggressive hunting lifestyle often results in “terrible injuries.”  

She had served as a summer intern at VINS in 2014, then returned as an employee in 2017. She’s been director of the rehabilitation program for two years.

When the crowd began to dispurse the hawk left its perch and circled the meadow before disappearing over the woods to the west.

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