Fort Mill woman, dog save sibling hawks

dthackham@fortmilltimes.comJuly 14, 2013 

A gift to a teacher eight years ago has led the way to a Fort Mill mother and her well-trained dog saving the lives of two Cooper’s hawks that fell from their nest last week.

Amelia Martinez and her terrier-boxer mix Sadie had been taking their usual evening walk last Sunday when Martinez noticed what looked like a “balled-up rag” hit the ground near a grove of pine trees. When Sadie went to investigate, she immediately jumped back. A two-week old hawk, which had just fallen from its nest, stared back at the dog.

Martinez knew just who to call, thanks to a connection she made with the Carolina Raptor Center when her son, Steven, was in Gold Hill Middle School. She and Steven wanted to give his geography teacher, Amy Bartholomew, a thoughtful present for the end of the year.

“We wanted to do something meaningful for her, and we knew she loved birds,” Martinez said. “So we looked up the raptor center and decided to sponsor a bird for her in her name.”

Almost a decade later, Martinez put in another call to the raptor center in Huntersville, N.C. This time, she wished to report an orphaned bird of prey.

“Cooper’s hawks aren’t our most common patients,” said Carly Orlando, the raptor rehabilitator who received the hawk on Monday morning. “We got 12 orphans last year and in comparison, we got over a hundred red-shouldered hawks in 2012.”

Martinez spoke with the center’s emergency contact, who told her to keep the hawk in a large box with towels, and keep the box in a safe place until they could take their new feathered friend up to the medical facility. Martinez stored the bird on top of the dryer so Sadie couldn’t reach it. Steven, now 20, named the bird Guapo, which means “handsome” in Spanish.

On Tuesday evening, just a day after Martinez returned from Huntersville, she took Sadie on another walk through the pine grove. Suddenly, Martinez says, Sadie bolted towards the grove where she had spotted the hawk. Soon after, Martinez was calling Steven to ask for another box and more towels. Sadie had spotted the original hawk’s sister. Steven, a history buff, said this bird looked exotic, like the historical Egyptian figure, Cleopatra. Soon, that name stuck, too.

“They did exactly the right thing,” Orlando said. “They definitely saved their lives, because with their size and age, there’s a very good chance predators would have gotten them.”

The sister was in much worse shape than her brother when she made it to Huntersville: maggots had started to form in leg wounds the bird sustained in its fall from the nest.

“We applied some salve on her and put her in the same incubator as the sibling,” said Michelle Houck, communications director. “But she was pretty stressed during her exam.”

After about a month of constant protection and tweezer-feeding by the center’s doctors, Orlando believes Guapo and Cleopatra can be discharged. They’ll be released in separate areas, to avoid competition for food.

While the two birds undergo treatment, Martinez says she’s keeping a close eye on their progress and gets updates from the center. She’s also donating $100 to help pay for the hawks’ medical care.

“I felt like since we found them, we should help with the care,” she said. “They felt like family for a while.”

For more information about the Carolina Raptor Center, including how to become a transporter of birds of prey in your area, call (704) 875-6521.

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