Native falcon lucky to survive shot to heart

17:00, Jun 23 2014
X-ray of falcon with shotgun pellets in body
SHOT: An x-ray showed how close the pellet came to the falcon's heart.

A native falcon has survived a shotgun wound just five millimetres from its heart, thanks to Massey University vets.

The adult male karearea was found more than a week ago, motionless on the ground, in Feilding, and was taken first to the SPCA, then to the Department of Conservation.

When veterinarians at Massey's Wildbase animal hospital got the bird, they X-rayed it for a head injury and discovered two shotgun pellets, one 5mm from its heart and another in the left leg.

Falcon recovering from shotgun wounds
RECOVERING: The falcon could take several weeks to recover from the ordeal.

"I'm not sure how he survived it," vet Rebecca Webster said. "I'm very surprised that the bones aren't broken. Usually we would get big open wounds, infections and the bird slowly dying in the bush, so he's been very lucky."

Vets do not plan to remove the pellets because they are not causing any harm at the moment. The main concern is head trauma and a damaged eye.

"One of the pupils is not responsive, and it looks like the retina is actually detached a little bit, which means he might not have 100 per cent vision and obviously they need their vision to be able to hunt," Webster said.

The falcon is on medication to ease brain swelling and, if the treatment is successful, it will go into a breeding programme or be released into the wild. Otherwise it is likely to be put down.

All being well, recovery could take up to three months.

Although found throughout the country, karearea, which feature on the $20 note, are classed as nationally vulnerable.