PASCO -- The red-tailed hawk was sitting on the ground outside the cafeteria at Mark Twain Elementary School when teachers and other staff arrived to work Jan. 26.
Assistant Principal Obadiah DeWeber said it was clear the bird was in distress, but the creature wasn't willing to admit it.
"It was snapping at us with its beak to show who was boss," he said.
The bird was poisoned with a substance likely intended to kill rodents or bird pests, such as starlings.
On Tuesday, staff from Blue Mountain Wildlife based in Pendleton released the hawk in front ofthe students after two weeks of nursing her back to health.
Officials with the wildliferehabilitation agency and the school said they hoped the incident will illustrate for students, and the rest of the community, how their actions can harm the environment.
"Unless you're really good about where you put (the poison), you don't know what's going to happen," said Lynn Tompkins, director of Blue Mountain Wildlife.
DeWeber said school employees at first didn't know what was wrong with the bird and thought perhaps it struck the building and hurt itself. Blue Mountain staff told school workers how to safely capture the bird and keep it secure until they could pick it up.
Tompkins said it was clear the bird appeared to have a type of paralysis but wasn't physically injured.
"Her feet were just clenched and she couldn't open them up," she said.
The bird first was treated for lead poisoning but that treatment didn't have much affect. Tompkins said they then gave it an intravenous drip to treat poisoning from organophosphates.
"Within an hour, she was on her feet," she said.
Organophosphates typically are used to kill pests such as voles and starlings. In the case of starlings, the poison is painted onto tree branches or known perches, where the birds absorb it through the skin on their feet.
Unfortunately, raptors can be poisoned from eating the birds that have absorbed the poison. It's illegal to poison or kill raptors, and Tompkins said she reported the incident to the local office of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. No other similarly poisoned birds have been found in the area.
"She could have flown some distance," Tompkins said.
Most of the students at Mark Twain weren't aware of the bird's existence or plight until Monday when teachers told them about the special raptor presentation by Blue Mountain.
"A lot of them have probably never thought about that," DeWeber said of the bird's secondary poisoning.
Several children yelled, "I love you!" to the hawk as she flew away.
-- Ty Beaver: 582-1402; email@example.com