SMITHFIELD — At least eight hawks have been shot down by poachers, and state wildlife officers are looking for those responsible for the deaths of the majestic birds.
The Utah Division of Wildlife Resources started receiving reports of hawks that were possibly shot about a week to 10 days ago.
“The first two (red-tailed) hawks were taken to the Ogden rehabilitation center, and unfortunately those hawks were beyond saving and ultimately had to be euthanized,” DWR conservation officer Chris Schulze said.
In all, about eight hawks were shot with a small-caliber firearm in a field near 600 South and 400 West. None of the hawks survived.
“When they come in and they're otherwise healthy and have been flying and are bright and alert and have a bullet through the spine, there's nothing you can do to repair that,” said DaLyn Erickson, executive director of the Wildlife Rehabilitation Center of Northern Utah. “There's nothing to help him other than end his suffering. It's a very, very hard thing to do, and it's very frustrating."
Aside from being illegal, the field is within Smithfield boundaries, which wildlife officers said makes it dangerous.
The people who are doing this of course aren't profiting from it ... They're just shooting these animals and leaving them.
–Chris Schulze, DWR
During this time of year, when many birds migrate south for the winter, there’s an influx of hawks and eagles in the state.
“The people who are doing this of course aren't profiting from it,” Schulze said. “They're not getting a big set of antlers or getting any meat from it. They're just shooting these animals and leaving them."
All hawks in Utah are protected by state law, he said. They're also considered a migratory species, so they're protected under federal law as well. Those responsible for shooting the hawks could be charged with a class B misdemeanor and face fines and jail time. The restitution value for each hawk is $100, Schulze said.
While wildlife officers are working some leads, they're hoping someone out there may have information that will help them catch the person or people behind this.
“(We are) encouraging people to be vigilant, and if they feel like they're seeing something suspicious to please give us a call and let us know what they're seeing," Schulze said.
People can turn in a poacher by calling 800-662-3337.
Meantime, the hope is that there won’t be any more hawks found dead, and the folks who rescue wildlife won’t have to make that difficult choice again.
"It's heartbreaking to have an incredibly beautiful animal that's majestic and flying through the air be taken down and looking you in the eyes and knowing you can't help it,” Erickson said. “It's hard."