WALLA WALLA - Blue Mountain Wildlife released a rescued Swainson's hawk on Saturday, and set the animal free in conjunction with the Blue Mountain Land Trust field trip to the wild area where the hawk might live for the next few months.
"We probably had him for a couple months. He had a big hole in his armpit. And when I first got him I would have bet money he got shot. But we X-rayed it and he wasn't shot," Blue Mountain Wildlife Director Lynn Tompkins said.
As soon as the hawk was released, the bird flew away about 100 yards and then turned around.
"It's coming back," a spectator said.
"He's just climbing," Tompkins corrected.
As predicted, the animal began a series of circles that drew it higher into the air, until it flew off in the direction of three man-made ponds that are part of a conservation easement.
Tompkins said the Swainson's hawk will most like stay in the area until winter draws near, at which point it will migrate to Argentina.
The raptor sanctuary where the hawk was treated and nursed back to health is located 10 minutes south of Pendleton.
Lately, Blue Mountain Wildlife has seen an increase in injured birds, most of them coming from Washington, Tompkins said.
So far the vast majority have been barn owls, with the count this year at around 400.
Tompkins also brought a barn own with her for display, along with a few other raptors, most of which she said had been raised since chicks by humans and were now imprinted on by humans and could not be released.
As for hawks, the sanctuary has treated 17 this year; of those, three were adults, 14 were juveniles and seven could be released back into the wild, Tompkins said.
Though Blue Mountain Wildlife rescues numerous raptors from across the border, it receives no state funding from Washington.
Tompkins said funding from Oregon is also very limited.
To learn more about the organization, go to bluemountainwildlife.org.
Alfred Diaz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 526-8325.