MISSISSIPPI -- Hit by a car more than three months ago, an injured hawk was returned to the wild Tuesday morning. The bird of prey was nursed back to health by the animal welfare group, Wild At Heart Rescue.
"You're going to make us look magical," said veterinarian Dr. James Askew as he clutched a red tailed hawk with thick gloves. "That's awesomeness."
What's awesome is the remarkable recovery of this red-tailed hawk. Three months ago, it was found badly injured alongside a busy roadway.
"We're probably going to assume this guy was hit by a car somewhere on Cedar Lake. It did break the bone in its wing, he has a fracture. It was close to the carpus itself, the wrist so to speak," said Dr. Askew.
What followed was weeks of treatment and physical therapy. Once the break healed, the bird needed some help learning to fly again.
"When we got done here, he went to the Jackson Zoo to build up his wings in the flight cage up there," said Jamie Pope, who helped with the hawk’s rehab.
"And you passed flight school. Yeah, we're proud of you!" said the colorful Dr. Askew.
"This guy was a more than 50 percent not going to make it and be released. And because of these two here, Donna and Jamie, they basically said, no, this guy gets the benefit of the doubt. And they put tons and tons of hard work into this bird," the vet explained.
"Every animal is worth it. Especially all birds of prey. There are so few of them, you know. And just driving down the interstate you see so many of them hit by cars and everything," said animal rescuer Donna Saucier.
As news of the hawk spread, nearby office workers came out to watch its flight to freedom. It was bittersweet for those who had a personal stake in helping the bird they nicknamed "Tom A. Hawk."
"It's one of those tearful days, but happy tears you know?" said Saucier, "That they finally go home."
Then came the moment.
"We're going to send him off in that direction," said Dr. Askew, as he released the hawk.
Tom made the long awaited takeoff, then perched about 40 feet up in a tree near the release point. Wild and free once again.
Wild at Heart Rescue has helped more than 150 injured birds over the past year. About 100 of those were healthy enough to return to the wild. Such rescues are costly, and the group is thankful for all donations and volunteers.
(NBC12 - Jan 10, 2017)