The sad saga of Violet continues
Violet, photographed on 11/26/11
From the New York Times website-11/27/11 by Andy Newman -- : Bits and pieces of this story have been bouncing around the Web and the airwaves for a while now, but not yet formally reported in this space, so here goes:
The metal wildlife band now stuck on Violet the red-tailed hawk’s swollen leg has almost undoubtedly been on her leg for more than four years, presumably without problems for most of that time.
The band, if it is the one wildlife officials think it is, was put on Violet on Oct. 3, 2006, her hatchling year, in New Jersey near the Delaware Water Gap as part of an ongoing study of hawk migration patterns. That band is a size 7B, the correct size for red-tailed hawks.
Violet does not appear to have been documented again by humans again until October 2010, when the wildlife photographer and Pale Male chronicler Lincoln Karimphotographed a hawk in Washington Square Park with a swollen leg and a band jammed in the same position, halfway up her shin. It is widely believed to be Violet.
In December, Mr. Karim brought the hawk to the attention of the head of the federal Bird Banding Laboratory, Bruce Peterjohn, who, after some prodding from Mr. Karim, asked the Long Island-based raptor rehabilitator Robert Horvath to capture the bird and remove the band.
Mr. Horvath told us he did not attempt to do so because the bird was not nesting then and capture would have been difficult to impossible. (Five months later, when Violet’s difficulty with her swollen leg appeared toincrease suddenly, it was Mr. Horvath who went to New York University and did the initial assessment of her, at which he recommended her immediate capture.)
The data about the band emerged when a medical rescue team led by the state paid a visit to Violet on May 12, a few days after Mr. Horvath’s visit. The rescuers, who decided not to capture Violet for now, were able to read the last five digits of the nine-digit band number and reported them to the Bird Banding Lab.
While there is a very remote possibility that there is another size 7B band with the same last five digits on another bird, the band is overwhelmingly likely to be No. 1177-60335, Mr. Peterjohn said.
That band was placed by a bander at Stillwater, N.J., on a first-year hawk as part of a 40-year study of migrating hawks along the Kittatinny Ridge in western New Jersey overseen by Giselle Chazotte Smisko, a wildlife rehabilitator with a master bird-banding permit who directs theAvian Wildlife Center in Wantage, N.J.
The study has revealed, among other things, a reduction in fall red-tailed hawk migration that is probably linked not to a drop in the number of hawks but to climate change, Ms. Chazotte-Smisko said.
Ms. Chazotte-Smisko said that the band in question was fitted by a bander with more than 20 years’ experience who has since developed medical problems and is unavailable to be interviewed.
The centuries-old practice of banding birds to track their movements was brought to North America by the ornithologist and artist John James Audubon in 1803. At the time, he tied silver cords to birds; today, the bands are made mostly of lightweight aluminum
While opponents of banding have blamed the band for Violet’s injury, Ms. Chazotte-Smisko said bluntly, “This bird would not be alive now if the band was the cause of the problem.”
Experts, including Dr. Elizabeth Bunting, the wildlife veterinarian who observed Violet up close on May 12, have speculated that Violet may have sustained an injury in the last year or so, such as a bite from a squirrel or other prey, and that the swelling in her leg from that injury pushed the band up from her ankle to her shin, where it is now lodged.
The sedentary period Violet went through when she was sitting on her eggs is likely to have made the swelling worse, Dr. Bunting said.
Update, 3:41 p.m. |Currently, Dr. Bunting said, Violet appears to have good circulation in her leg — despite the swelling, there is some space around the band. The swelling could be due to scar tissue or fluid retention, neither of which is life-threatening, and it is not clear what role the band is playing in the injury, she said.
and here's today's NY Times story: 11/29/11
Violet the Hawk Has Worsening Leg ProblemsBy EMILY S. RUEB
Violet, mother of Pip, is now in danger of losing the banded leg that had plagued her even before the Hawk Cam started rolling on the 12th-floor window of New York University’s Bobst Library.
A video of Violet in Washington Square Park shot on Saturday by Lincoln Karim, the wildlife photographer and Pale Male chronicler, shows Violet’s right leg dangling uselessly below the metal wildlife band on her shin, the foot gray and scaly from lack of blood flow. There also appears to be a broken bone protruding above the band.
This does not bode well.
After watching the footage, Dr. Elizabeth Bunting, a veterinarian specializing in wildlife at the Cornell College of Veterinary Medicine who has observed Violet for several months, was not hopeful about the prospects for Violet’s leg — or her survival.
“Most people would say she can’t hang in there with one foot,” Dr. Bunting said. Some birds, like songbirds, are able to, she said. “But the bigger the bird, the less likely they are to compensate for the injury, especially raptors, who are dependent on their feet to eat.”
Without a hands-on medical assessment of her nerve function, the severity of the fracture and the circulation to her toes, it is hard to determine the prognosis for the leg, she said.
Mr. Karim first photographed Violet’s abnormal leg, with the wildlife band appearing to restrict circulation, in October 2010. He urged wildlife officials to have the band removed, but capturing her was deemed too difficult. [NOTE FROM MW-- PLEASE SEE THIS CORRESPONDENCE AT THE END OF THE ARTICLE TO GET A FULL PICTURE]
She was seen hobbling around the nest in May shortly after her hatchling, Pip, emerged, with her right leg tangled in what appeared to be fishing line and swollen to about three times its normal size. The metal wildlife band wedged on her shin appeared to be making the situation worse.
A panel of experts and officials from the state Department of Environmental Conservation and Protection, including Dr. Bunting, were called in to assess Violet from close range. But they ultimately decided not to intervene, and left the nest, where Violet was feeding a week-old baby, alone.
Even as some called for the band to be removed, wildlife officials said it was not clear that the band, placed on Violet’s leg in 2006, was the cause of her injury at the time.
The department stuck by its decision on Monday. “Based on direct observations of her condition at that time, the consensus opinion, particularly given the need for Violet to continue to care for her young, was to avoid additional harm that could be caused by an attempted capture,” Michael Bopp, a spokesman for the D.E.C., said in an e-mail.
Dr. Bunting said it was possible that a subsequent trauma — like a run-in with a car or another animal — had hastened the worsening of the foot.
Now the question, once again, is whether or not to intervene.
Even if Violet is successfully trapped, which could take days, she would possibly face surgery and a long road to recovery. If the leg is not viable, Violet would be euthanized (amputating the leg and keeping her in captivity is not seen as a humane option).
“This is a philosophical question,” said Dr. Bunting. “Is it more humane to capture the animal and euthanize it if you can’t fix the leg; or leave her alone in the wild with the possibility she might die from starvation or infection, which is the fate of many wild animals?”
Even if Violet is able to survive the winter, it is unclear whether she would be fit for motherhood with her handicap.
“There is a high probability that Violet could not stand and support copulation with Bobby,” the Ohio raptor expert John Blakeman wrote in an e-mail after viewing the video, referring to Violet’s mate. “It may be impossible to form viable eggs this year.” And if an egg were to hatch, Mr. Blakeman wrote, Violet would have tremendous difficulty feeding her young.
“As morbid as it might be,” he wrote, “the very best happenstance would be for Violet’s prompt natural demise, that any infection in the useless leg would become systemic, with consequent septic death.”
Although Violet is capable of feeding and otherwise appears to be in good health, she has to put on a brave face to avoid becoming prey herself, Dr. Bunting said.
“They are incredibly tough customers,” said Dr. Bunting who said she was constantly surprised by the resilience of these creatures.
For now, Violet is hanging in there. But we don’t know for how long.
PS from MWS from MWP: firstname.lastname@example.orgSubject: Re: Red Tail Hawk with bad band.
On October 29, 2010, the PaleMale.com photographer first sent a photo of Violet's banded leg to the Bird Banding Lab in Patuxent, Maryland, to demonstrate that bird banding can have adverse results. He received the following response:
Subject: Re: Red Tail Hawk with bad band.
Date: Tue, 21 Dec 2010 17:00:00 -0500From: email@example.com
Dear Date: Tue, 21 Dec 2010 17:00:00 -050
With all due respect, your photographs do not support your claim that the Red-tailed Hawk's leg is impaired by the bird band. Your photos show that the bird is very capable of using that leg to capture prey (a squirrel), carry prey, and to dismember prey. In essence, it is behaving as a normal wild raptor. We see no need to take any action at this time, but are willing to reassess the situation should circumstances change.
Bird Banding Lab
USGS Patuxent Wildlife Research Center Dear Mr. Karim: With all due respect, your photographs do not support your claim that the Red-tailed Hawk's leg is impaired by the bird band. Your p