Hawk found impaled with arrow rehabilitated and set free

Photo of Rob Ryser

NEWTOWN - The first miracle was that the red-tailed hawk lived for a week in the wild with a hunter’s arrow lodged through his leg and abdomen.

The second miracle was the 10-year-old Newtown girl and a community of Good Samaritans whose compassion and cooperation brought the hawk into the care of Christine Peyreigne - a recent college graduate from Weston, who runs a sanctuary for birds of prey.

But the final event of this unlikely story was the most inspiring for witnesses who saw the creature spread its wings and ride the thermal winds above Newtown.

“After he was released, he sat in a tree to get his bearings and then he soared above us in the sky for five minutes,” said Betsy Peyreigne, Christine’s mother, who helps at the Weston-based sanctuary, Christine’s Critters. “Of all the releases we have ever done, that one just made our hearts soar.”

After surgery at South Wilton Veterinary Group and a recovery regimen that consisted pain medication, antibiotics, and minced quail meat, the bird faced an uncertain prognosis — still sore, weak and unable to fly.

If the bird wasn’t strong enough to release back in the wild, perhaps it would join the corps of ambassador birds at Christine’s Critters.

But as soon as the red-tailed hawk was healthy enough for the flight cage, it was clear that he was no ambassador bird, Betsy Peyreigne said.

“Some birds have a wilder spirit than others,” she said. “When we put him in the bigger flight cage, we were surprised how quickly he had healed.”

The last test was to see how high he could fly in the sky.

Christine Peyreigne took the injured hawk for a test fly with a 600-foot line.

“On the first day we knew this bird was ready,” Betsy Peyreigne said.

A small launching crew consisting of the Peyreignes, the Newtown girl who found the injured hawk and veterinarian Raina Schunk of South Wilton who removed the arrow accompanied the hawk at the wildlife preserve on Great Hill Road.

When the cage opened, the hawk shot out, flying over the meadow and into the blue sky. Before flying off for good, the bird appeared to circle back to say ‘goodbye.’

“We have never had a hawk soar overhead after release for as long as he did, just riding the thermals and enjoying his freedom before soaring out of sight,” said Christine Peyreigne said in a Facebook post.

Betsy Peyreigne agreed.

“We think he was just really enjoying being able to fly free,” she said. “It’s releases like these that help us through the sad cases of birds we cannot save, and it’s a reminder of why we do the things we do.”

rryser@newstimes.com 203-731-3342