We welcomed Hara the Harris's Hawk to Animal Wonders just a few days ago! She was taken in by America's Teaching Zoo down in Moorpark, CA and they had plans to have her join their bird of prey collection and give educational presentations to their audiences in California. During her quarantine period one of her lab results came back to show she had a contagious parasite that is not very well know and almost impossible to treat successfully. Therefore, she could not be incorporated into their program for fear of spreading the parasite into their unique collection of birds. They needed to find her a new home that either didn't mind the parasite, or that did not have other birds of prey to infect. That's were we stepped in.
Animal Wonders does not have any other birds of prey so we were a suitable placement for Hara. We contacted the MT Fish Wildlife & Parks department to see if they had any issues with bringing Hara into Montana knowing that she had this parasite. They responded that since there are very few vectors of transmission of the parasite in MT and that she would be secured in her enclosure at all times except during presentations, they were okay with letting her come into the state. Our next step was to build an enclosure for a raptor, this is called a mew. The mew had to meet US Fish and Wildlife Services' standards and be approved by one of their agents. The mew had to be constructed before we could be approved for the permit to possess a live raptor and take her off site to presentations. So we set about making plans and constructing the mew. It was difficult since it was the middle of winter and the ground was frozen solid, so we had to get creative. We decided to build a temporary mew until the ground thawed and we could properly secure the ground area from potential predators digging under the fencing and into the mew. So we chose to build the temporary mew on our rock patio right next to our house. It actually went up in one day and was completed within the week. Photos were taken and sent in along with the application for possession of a live raptor. The approval process can take 30-90 days, so we hunkered down for the wait. Within two weeks we had verbal approval and we started making arrangements with MT FW&P for state permits. We were approved that day!
The next week we booked a flight for Hara to make the trip from sunny CA to a MT that was just starting to show signs of spring's arrival. Hara flew into Missoula Airport on April 4th calm and collected and ready to explore her new home. We will be begin to slowly acclimate her to MT weather with a heat lamp and this coming winter she will get a heated perch to make sure her feet stay warm. Many raptors can live outside in MT with nothing but shelter, but Harris's Hawks are from a hat dry climate and cannot withstand the cold temperatures without supplementary heat. Yesterday she enjoyed checking out her new mew and we were preparing to continue today when we woke to find an inch of snow covering the ground and a thermometer that read 34*. Just a bit too cold for us to consider putting her out. We're hoping for 50's and above very soon so Hara can enjoy the view off the hill and get some fresh air this coming week. We have to be extra careful with her since the parasite she carries weakens her immune system and too much stress could lower it even more. So for now, Hara is snuggled up and warm inside in her crate eating morsels of rat and pigeon while we wait for the elusive spring weather of MT to resurface.