Falcon being nursed back to health

LUCY TOWNEND
Last updated 12:00 25/06/2014
X-ray of falcon with shotgun pellets in body
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SHOT: An x-ray showed how close the pellet came to the falcon's heart.
Falcon recovering from shotgun wounds
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RECOVERING: The falcon could take several weeks to recover from the ordeal.

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A native falcon found shot down in Manawatu is likely the victim of a deliberate attack.

The adult male karearea, one of New Zealand's only endemic falcon, was found motionless on the ground near Feilding about a week ago.

It was taken first to the SPCA, then to the Department of Conservation, who took it to Massey University to be checked over.

When veterinarians at the university's Wildbase animal hospital X-rayed the bird for a head injury, they discovered it had survived two shotgun wounds, one which was just 5 millimetres from its heart and another in its left leg.

"I'm not sure how he survived it," Wildbase 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."

Department of Conservation national hunting adviser Ian Cooksley said it was hard to know why the bird was shot down, but suspected it was a deliberate strike, because the pellets embedded in the bird's body were from a shotgun.

Despite it being duck shooting season, it was unlikely the person who harmed the falcon had mistaken it for a duck, he said.

"The thing is with birds of prey, they don't look anything like water fowl, so for them to be shot you can almost take the accidental part out of the equation, if someone shot one of those birds they would have done it deliberately," Cooksley said. "There's a hangover from the past where some people shot hawks and other birds of prey because they were killing other things and for most people a falcon and a harrier are going to look pretty similar, although they are entirely different."

Cooksley urged people to call DOC or New Zealand Fish and Game before shooting birds, because getting it wrong could result in a fine.

Massey vets did not plan to remove the pellets from the falcon because they were not causing harm, instead the main concern was head trauma and a damaged eye, Webster said.

"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."

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The falcon was on medication to ease brain swelling and, if the treatment was successful, it would go into a breeding programme or released into the wild.

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

- Manawatu Standard

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