It's not often you see a juvenile red-tailed hawk. If you do see one, you might not even recognize it as a federally protected raptor.
In May, Nueces Electric Cooperative Metering Supervisor, Bill Gunn, was working near a communications tower outside of Orange Grove, TX and noticed the bird on the ground. During his two-hour timeframe at the tower, the bird sat patiently and watched Gunn work. When Gunn was ready to leave he inspected the bird more closely. "I knew it was a red-tailed hawk because I could hear others flying above. They have a very distinctive call," said Gunn, "I knew something wasn't right with this one and it needed some help."
Fortunately for his new carnivorous sidekick, Gunn knew a thing or two about red-tailed hawks and was familiar with the federal regulations surrounding native north American raptors. Knowledge coupled with easy access to the near-by Texas State Aquarium who successfully rehabilitates birds through their Second Wildlife Rehabilitation Hospital.
Gunn contacted the aquarium who advised him where to take the bird. Knowing the bird was federally protected, Gunn made sure he was protected in the event he was pulled over with the raptor in his possession. "They assured me that by making the call, I was authorized by the aquarium to put the bird in a box and transport it," stated Gunn, "I'm a cautious driver, but that certainly would have been the day my tail light was out."
Six weeks later, the Aquarium contacted Bill and let him know the bird was doing well. The original diagnosis stated the bird was simply young and must have fallen out of the nest. The Texas State Aquarium staff worked with the bird to provide nutrition and encouraged it's hunting and flying habits until the hawk was big enough to survive on its own.
The hawk was released at a community park near the Nueces Electric Cooperative office. Gunn's family was on hand and it was a joyous site to watch the rehabilitated bird jump out of the create and quickly flew off into the blue sky. The whole release lasted less than three seconds.
The red-tailed hawk is one of the most widely scattered hawks in America and can thrive in a variety of environments. While hawks do not normally nest on south Texas distribution poles, it is not uncommon to find a nest perched higher up in the communication towers.
There is a belief that hawks bring good luck. This must be true. At the time he found the hawk, Gunn was an Communications Technician. Shortly after, the Metering Supervisor at the time resigned and Gunn was asked to take his place.
Good luck or just good timing, the Co-op was happy to support Gunn and the bird. In an industry that is often touted as negatively impacting the environment, the reality is Co-op's do what we can to be good environmental partners to animals and land alike.
All utilities have a responsibility to protect and reduce our environmental impacts. According to the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, Squirrels and other wildlife trigger approximately 11% of outages nation-wide. Co-op's work closely with state Parks and Wildlife on a consistent basis to ensure wildlife is protected while meeting the growing electrical needs of consumers.
Still, wildlife does greatly impact electrical distribution systems. Over the past few years NEC has aggressively gone to 100% "cover-up" on all new construction and maintenance items. This means anytime NEC employees touch a pole it is covered with bird guards. The guards not only help the Co-op
minimize outages, but protects wildlife including a variety of birds, squirrels, snakes.
Nueces Electric Cooperative applauds Bill Gunn for being observant and taking the extra steps to help the red tailed hawk. We hope the good luck keeps shining on him and all he does for the members of Nueces Electric Cooperative.