Burlington Free Press
By Matt Sutkoski
October 3, 2006
Michael Maheu of Cornwall felt awful Friday evening when he saw a red-tailed
hawk trying to fly with a leg hold trap attached to its foot.
The sight of the suffering hawk sent Maheu on a mission that lasted much
of the weekend. Maheu's adventure ended Saturday night with the hawk
recovering in a Rutland animal clinic. The incident also has a Rutland game
warden trying to solve a whodunit: Someone had to set the trap that snagged
the hawk, and the trap might have been illegal.
Maheu said his mother-in-law arrived at his home Friday afternoon
reporting a hawk on a nearby road with something attached to its leg. He
quickly found the raptor with a leg hold trap dangling from its foot, but
the bird still had quite a bit of moxie left. "We saw it fly out of the
grass. It seemed to be flying just fine and went way up in a tree. I stayed
and watched it for awhile, and at this point I thought I was never going to
be able to catch this guy," Maheu said.
Nevertheless, he tried again Saturday morning, but couldn't find the
bird. Maheu spotted the bird again Saturday afternoon. He'd obtained
guidance from the Vermont Institute of Natural Science. He borrowed a device
from a neighbor that had a noose attached to a pole to grab the bird's good
leg. Then he would wrestle the hawk into a blanket and put it in his car.
Maheu chased the hawk Saturday afternoon until the raptor and the trap
became entangled in raspberry bushes. Here's where Maheu's daughter
Rosemary, 4, became instrumental. While Maheu handled the bird and the
blanket, Rosemary held the pole steady to ensure the hawk didn't get away.
"I've got to say without her, I would have had a lot more trouble," Maheu
On the advice of VINS officials, Maheu said he took the weak and
exhausted hawk to the Rutland Veterinary Clinic. By Monday evening, the hawk
was much better. It was drinking water and eating chicken or turkey, said
Kaitlin Cioffi, a receptionist at the clinic. VINS officials will likely
take the bird today and probably release it quickly back to the wild, Cioffi
Maheu said Rosemary is glad the hawk is improving. "She asks me how the
birdie is doing. It's good for her to have an experience like this at her
age. She's a pretty compassionate kid anyway," Maheu said.
The trap that snared the hawk had the owner's name and address on it, as
required by state law, said Sgt. Don Isabelle, a Vermont Fish and Wildlife
Isabelle was trying to track down the trap's out-of-state owner, but that
person isn't necessarily the person who set the trap, he said. Trapping
season for animals such as muskrat, mink and fox starts in late October and
lasts into December, said Col. Robert Rooks, the director of the Fish and
Game Department's enforcement division. Setting a trap out of season can
lead to a fine of $141 per violation, Rooks said.
It is legal to plant leg hold traps any time of year to get rid of
nuisance animals, though intentionally trapping a protected species like a
red-tailed hawk is illegal and can bring fines of up to $500, Rooks said
In Cornwall, Maheu agreed he went to great lengths to rescue the hawk.
"My family will tell you I was obsessed with it," he said. "I see these
hawks all the time. They represent freedom and independence."
Plus, it was a human who caused the problem for the hawk, and Maheu said
he wanted to be a human that solved the problem.
Contact Matt Sutkoski at 660-1846 or