The Ferocity of Predators

A strange story about a hawk and a turkey.

It begins with the hawk I spotted soaring over our back yard. From the upper back porch I could watch the hawk fly between two huge pecan trees. Having lived near a hawk’s permanent nest in Sugar Land, I had the feeling the hawk for establishing territory for a nest. It may be there is already a nest in one of the trees. Even with the worst drought in recorded history in Houston, those pecan trees are thick with leaves.

Here it is, practically in the flat middle of the big city and that hawk was happy. Lots of prey – rats, pigeons makes it a good living space for a hawk.

I can tell you – watching the hawk that week after we moved brought such joy bubbling up. My sadness at leaving Sugar Land was finally in the past. I could mark the moment.

A week later my husband and I were walking to a little Mexican restaurant in the neighborhood. As we were fixing to turn the corner I saw something that ground me to a hot, dry halt. Fury, rage, frustration, all those things shot through me.

The hawk’s wings had been severed and were now hanging on a dumpster behind the flower shop.

It is illegal to shoot any bird of prey. But this was MY hawk. My hawk was dead. I knew I had missed something. I hadn’t seen the hawk flying lately. Throughout the evening whenever I thought of it, my stomach ached to DO something.

I called the Texas Parks and Wildlife as soon as I could. I was given the names and phone numbers of the warden. I called, left messages. Finally I called the TPW again and was given the number for the dispatch. I called that number and got through to a human. However I had the feeling that the lady at the other end of the line thought I was crazy.

“I’m reporting that a man shot a hawk,” I said.

“Did you see it happen?”

“No. But the wings are displayed on a dumpster. Like they’re pinned butterfly wings or something.”

“How do you know it is a hawk?”

“It’s either a hawk or an owl.”

“You say they are pinned? To a dumpster?”

“Well, he has them splayed out and held down with something.”

“I’ll have a warden call you.”

I gave her my name and number. I waited to hear. All day. Nothing. The next day. Nothing. I snuck down the street and took a picture. I didn’t want anyone to see me looking too interested. The owner of the flower business uses that lot behind him to practice his archery. That’s why I know it was him. He shoots at an archery target next to a fence that people are walking past. That’s crazy.

I called the Texas Parks and Wildlife again. Explained what I was calling about and asked why no one had called.

The dispatch lady on the other end said that it was the first time she was hearing about it.

“Well, the wings are still there,” I said.

“You say they are hawk wings?”

“Yes, the neighborhood hawk. It’s missing.”

“And where do you live?”

“In Houston, near downtown.”

“I’ll have a warden call you.”

Did she think I was crazy, too?  No one called. Ever. Now I’m mad.

What to do? What to do? In the cool of the evening the neighbors sit outside. I asked them if they’d seen the wings?

No, but they weren’t surprised. That guy at the flower shop, they told me, once hung a bunch of dead fish on his fence to chase away customers of a breakfast shop across the street from him. They said they would tell the neighborhood lady who is involved in wildlife rehabilitation. She would know what to do.

She told the neighbor to call the Texas Wildlife rehabilitation. He did. He came over this morning to tell me. He said the Texas Wildlife rehabilitation department called the Texas Parks and Wildlife and sure enough – a warden called my neighbor. Yes. He had seen the wings and yes, the owner of the flower shop would be getting a visit from him.

Ahhh. Justice.

The neighbor said that he has been assured that our names won’t come up. The flower shop guy is reputed to be nuts. He looks threatening with that bow and arrow. He could DO something.

This is the dumpster. What kind of bird did these come from? With the hawk missing what would you think?

And here’s a follow up. The neighbor told me this afternoon that the warden called him and told him that those are wild turkey wings and that the guy had a permit to kill a wild turkey. Opinion time. Do those look like wild turkey wings? AND where is my hawk? Overcome by the drought? The display remains macabre.

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