By Emily Jaycox
For the Stettler Independent
When Stettler resident Kami Ritz saw a Red Tailed Hawk in distress near Buffalo Lake on July 26, she rushed to its aid.
Ritz, a self-proclaimed animal lover and hobby wildlife photographer, and her friend Patty Risler were out for a drive that evening when they spotted the bird in the ditch.
“Considering he didn’t fly right away I got concerned so I pulled over and walked over to him,” said Ritz in an email interview July 31.
“He was alert and watching me but not moving.”
A member of the Buffalo Lake Naturalists, Ritz knew about the Medicine River Wildlife Centre (MRWC) in Spruce View and called them right away.
Soon Ritz was in contact with Judy Boyd, fostering researcher at MRWC.
Boyd asked Ritz a checklist of questions to determine if the bird did indeed need help and then told Ritz she was on her way.
“I was amazed as she was in Red Deer but didn’t hesitate at all.”
Carol Kelly, wildlife rehabilitator at MRWC, was able to give Ritz instructions over the phone on the best way to get the hawk into a carrier that Ritz got from friends.
Boyd agreed to meet Ritz in Alix for the exchange.
“[We] hit the road with our little-feathered traveller hoping for the best,” said Ritz.
“We decided to name him Hero as he really did bring out the hero in a lot of people that day.”
Hero was given medicine and checked over as soon as Boyd arrived, and then taken to MRWC.
“She promised they would do all they could and I knew they would,” said Ritz.
“The fact she drove all that way at the drop of a hat shows how committed they are to saving wildlife.”
Hero was fed every half hour with a feeding tube in an attempt to rehydrate him, but unfortunately, he was “too far gone” by the time he was found, said Kelly.
Despite best efforts, Hero died before 24 hours had passed, according to Kelly.
“He was in wretched shape,” she said.
Because Hero had no external injuries, the best-educated guess is he was hit by a car, and concussed and unable to hunt, had been slowly starving to death, says Kelly.
Most of the injuries the wildlife centre sees are caused by human activity, says Kelly.
“We owe them a debt to try,” she said.
“If you do hit an animal, don’t just walk away, there is somebody here to help.”