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Endangered goshawk euthanized after being shot near Port McNeill

Mountain Avian Rescue Society staff were unable to save the bird, which they believe was shot because it had been hunting chickens on a nearby farm that were not in a proper enclosure

A northern goshawk that was shot in the shoulder had to be euthanized after staff at the Mountain Avian Rescue Society were unable to save the endangered bird, found near Port McNeill.

“It hits us so hard … I’ve had a few meltdowns over the incident,” said Keirsten Shyian, an assistant manager at the wildlife rehabilitation center in Merville.

“A lot of the injured birds that come to us are human-caused and usually accidents, but this one was shot on purpose and that’s hard to take, especially when it is so endangered.”

The injured northern goshawk — protected under provincial and federal laws — was reported on a rural property near Port McNeill on Christmas Day and captured and brought to the centre on Jan. 2.

Initial X-rays on the goshawk determined it had been shot through the humerus and had a fractured shoulder, and the lead shot that shattered the bone had fragmented. Blood tests showed the male goshawk had been poisoned by lead, which leeched into its blood from the lead shot.

Shyian believes the goshawk was shot because it had been hunting chickens on a nearby farm that were not in a proper enclosure.

The case was reported to the B.C. Conservation Officers Service. The Ministry of Environment said Thursday the service is investigating the shooting and is asking anyone with information to contact the RAPP (Report All Poachers and Polluters) line at 1-877-952-7277.

The northern goshawk that resides on the Island is the Accipiter gentilis laingi subspecies. All species of the northern goshawk are threatened across the country.

The coastal subspecies is red-listed in British Columbia, meaning it is at risk of being lost. The coastal subspecies has been listed as threatened under the federal Species at Risk Act since 2003.

Since the species is red-listed, Mountain Avian Rescue Society was obligated to send the goshawk to Elk Lake Veterinary Clinic in Victoria in hopes the injury could be repaired, and the goshawk might live out its life as an “ambassador” at the centre.

“Unfortunately, after acquiring radiographs under anesthesia of several views, it was determined the fracture was unable to be surgically repaired, and the decision was made to euthanize the bird to relieve his suffering,” said Shyian.

She said northern goshawks “never do well in captivity,” and added the fracture of the bone so close to the shoulder and possible amputation of the wing would cause the bird to forever lose it balance. “The frustrating thing about all of this is that it’s totally preventable,” said Shyian. “These birds are not pests and they should not be treated like pests. They are protected.

“This case has been devastating to our staff and volunteers, especially since they are a very rare species for us to admit,” she added. “Shooting wildlife is cruel, and in many cases, illegal. Do your research before you decide to hunt.”

The Mountain Avian Rescue Society has successfully rehabilitated one northern goshawk. It was found as a chick two years ago, and raised at the centre before being successfully released.

It was a tough holiday season for staff at the avian rescue society, who also admitted a critically injured bald eagle between Christmas and New Year’s. The eagle, found at Cape Scott Lighthouse with broken wings, also had to be euthanized.

But there was a silver lining for rehabilitation staff, who said $1,400 was raised by local groups to hire a helicopter to fly the bird to Port McNeill and then drive it to Merville.

“It shows us there is a lot of community support and caring for wildlife out there,” said Shyian. “Unfortunately, we were not able to save the eagle.”

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