Cop helps hawk get on road to recovery

EAST PALESTINE – On a Thursday afternoon not too long ago officer Jennifer Calko took something unusual into custody.

When she arrived at the North Market Street home near Sparkle Market she was presented with a box. Joshua Figley told her he found the hawk in his yard, it wasn’t moving much and he wasn’t sure what to do with it.

As Calko looked at the bird she knew it needed help. It was breathing heavy and barely moving. It appeared to have run into the house, a car, or a window. An animal lover and amateur wildlife photographer (a picture she took won second place in the Columbiana Street Fair contest), Calko remembered a bird sanctuary she came in contact with at a Pet Expo in Niles this year.

The Birds in Flight Sanctuary operates out of Trumbull County and serves 16 other counties.

Calko said in her 10-and-a-half years on the force she has never come across an injured hawk.

“It’s uncommon to see something like that in East Palestine,” she said.

She made contact with the sanctuary’s executive director, Heather Merritt, and the two met in Canfield.

Calko said Merritt and her son immediately began attending to the bird, which she learned was a male juvenile Sharp Shinned Hawk and its injuries were mostly muscle strains.

Merritt said Thursday the hawk fully recovered and was released last week in Trumbull County.

“You really have to watch releasing a juvenile bird back into the territory of which it came. The reason for that is if the parents no longer recognize it as their own then they will kill it. Soon, the parents are going to start moving the babies out of that territory anyway,” she said.

She believes the hawk is likely “floating around” the area until next year when it will begin establishing its own territory.

The sanctuary treated the hawk with some medicine to alleviate swelling, but mostly it needed some rest, she said.

They knew it was ready to be released after it started catching its own food.

Merritt has been rescuing and releasing birds 22 years and said it was not the first time an officer has turned to the sanctuary for help.

An officer with the Mill Creek Police Department brought in a goose on Wednesday.

The sanctuary is up to 400 animals and Merritt anticipates it will be at 1,000 by the end of this year. The sanctuary has no paid staffers and operates by donation only, and donations are needed.

“If we don’t receive funding then we would have to close. Donations could also be food for ducks and geese. We receive 200 to 300 ducks and geese a year,” she said.

People can also donate their time, she added.

She said people shouldn’t attempt to rescue animals on their own but notify someone trained to handle them.

“We would rather people call us our motto is sometimes hands off is the best,” she said.

While the sanctuary attends to the birds they mostly allow them to be on their own so as not to interfere with their natural instincts for survival, she explained.

Calko was pleased to hear the hawk fully recovered and was released.