PSU’s Nature Reach program now has a new winged ambassador for its program.
“Harriet” – the 35-year-old Harris’s hawk represented Nature Reach programming throughout the area since 1988, serving for over three decades. Harriet passed away in January as director of the Nature Reach Delia Lister looked to fill the void within the raptor program.
Harriet was presented in front of hundreds upon hundreds of groups throughout her tenure with Lister as well as her predecessors perching the hawk on their arm. The hawk became cared for by the PSU biology department as well as students training to work careers with wildlife and environmental education. Their maximum life expectancy in captivity is usually 30 years, but “Harriet” lived to be nearly 36. She was very close in age to the oldest known captive Harris’s Hawk.
“She was our best trained bird,” Lister said. “I felt like I honestly lost one of my coworkers at that point.”
This summer, Lister found a replacement hawk with the help of “Wild At Heart,” based in Phoenix, Arizona, filling the void for Nature Reach. Alexander, the Harris’ hawk joined the program last month replacing Harriet. He had been kept by a human for a week where he was fed on a diet of hamburger before being taken in after the human found the bird injured. From there, Alexander was turned into Wild At Heart July 4, 2018 where veterinarians diagnosed him with a “splay leg.” A condition where a chick can’t stand because its legs point to either side of its body and do not sit directly under its body.
“It can be caused by sitting on too slick of a surface when young, a vitamin deficiency, and/or poor incubation…imagine trying to stand upright wearing roller skates when you are just learning how to walk and your legs are barely strong enough to support you,” Lister said.
Alexander was treated and placed with a foster mom. They later attempted to release him, but determined he was not going to do well on his own in the wild.
After eight months of paperwork and a permit for transfer, PSU Nature Reach took possession, and on Aug. 28, the hawk became a Gorilla. Coincidental was the fact that a 2004 alumnus and friend of Lister, Jeremy Albright, helped pilot Lister and Alexander back to Kansas.
“I couldn’t have asked for a better friend to help bring Alexander home,” Lister said.
Early Monday morning, on Sept. 9, media around the area gathered at the PSU Nature Reserve for an informal “meet and greet” with Alexander. This gave Lister her goal of ample time for coverage of Alexander while lessening the number of times Lister has to get the hawk out for people. He is still in the process of becoming familiar with Delia and with his new environment.
“I think he’s going to be really good,” said Lister. “He’s got a different personality but he’s learning to come to the fence when I need him to, learning to have anklets on and hopefully the next phase walking around more dealing with general public.”