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Wild hawk released back into wild at College Community Schools campus

Red tailed hawk nursed back to health after being found near baseball field

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CEDAR RAPIDS — Wearing thick, red work gloves, Tammy Carolan held tight to the raptor in her hands Friday morning.

It was just about time for the red-tailed hawk to return to the skies above the baseball diamond at Prairie High School in Cedar Rapids.

The hawk, named Finish — a nod to the school’s baseball team that used “#finish” to spur it to a Class 4A state championship this summer — held still, its intense eyes watching the small group of people gathered around — well, like a hawk.

On the count of three, Carolan, a buildings and grounds employee for College Community schools who discovered the injured bird three weeks ago, extended her arms, lifting the bird in the air. Without hesitation, the hawk spread its wings, began flying and quickly found a perch in a nearby pine tree.

Soon after, the young bird could be spotted atop a more familiar perch — the light post overlooking the baseball diamond at the home of the appropriately named Hawks of Prairie High.

Friday’s release — and the rescue and recovery of the bird — was overseen by the non-profit Raptors, Advocacy, Rehabilitation and Education — or RARE. The organization helps return injured animals to the wild.

Carolan said she contacted the organization after discovering the hawk under the bleachers near the baseball diamond earlier this month.

“The bird came into our clinic weak and hungry,” Luke Hart, executive director of RARE, said. “Really, so weak it couldn’t even eat. We had to actually hand feed little bits at a time and fluids just to rehydrate.”

Although there were no physical signs of injury, Hart theorizes the bird ate something toxic, which caused it to become ill.

“(It) just needed a little TLC to get a second shot at it,” he said.

Hart and Jodeane Cancilla founded RARE in November 2015. Cancilla continues to provide educational services for the organization, which is run primarily by volunteers.

Since its founding, the organization has rescued nearly 200 birds. Since the beginning of this year, 20 of the 86 rescued raptors have been released back into the wild, said Sonja Hadenfeldt, a volunteer for RARE.

Of 54 nonraptors — which include birds like ducks and mourning doves — rescued since Jan. 1, 14 were released back into the wild, she added.

RARE’s volunteer army is made up of about 40 people, including two licensed veterinarians from Iowa City — Mary Ebert of Gentle Heart Pet Clinic and Kim Vercande of Best Friends Veterinary Care.

The organization operates out of the two clinics, but Hart said plans are in place for the organization to move into its own facility in Iowa City by Sept. 1.

“We’ve got a lot of work to do just to get the new space set up before we’re ready to take birds and help them,” Elizabeth Aubrey, another volunteer, said.

Hart said he is also hoping to launch a capital campaign in the coming months.

“Down the road, we’re seriously looking to find a way to have facilities where we can actually do rehab and education,” he said.

Hart said it costs about $50,000 a year to care for the rescued birds, including about $20,000 for food.

Hart — who previously worked with Cancilla and Aubrey at the Macbride Raptor Project before it stopped caring for injured birds in 2015 — said he believes RARE has had a successful first year. He is optimistic the organization can grow its services in the future.

Those interested in learning more about the organization or making a donation, can call (319) 248-9770.

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