Four previously injured hawks will get a chance to fly free this Saturday

CLAWS Inc.—a Triangle-based volunteer wildlife rehabilitation nonprofit—will release four juvenile red-shouldered hawks into the wild at the Sarah P. Duke Gardens. After raising the four birds in their facilities, CLAWS Inc. has deemed them ready to return to the wild. The hawks, named Daisy, Sunflower, Violet and Cosmo, will be set free from the South Lawn at 11 a.m. and the winners of a raffle competition will have the chance to put on protective equipment to personally release a hawk.

“These hawks all came into rehabilitation separately, after being blown from their nests in storms,” Kindra Mammone, executive director of CLAWS Inc. wrote in an email Monday. “All were raised here together, and all have passed both hunt and flight school with flying colors.”

Mammone, who founded CLAWS Inc. in 2004, has created a team of experts who work on both a local and national level to teach people how to live safely and in harmony with native wildlife. A large part of the service that they offer involves rehabilitating injured, sick and orphaned wildlife for release back into their native habitat.

“Everybody involved [in CLAWS, Inc.] has many years of experience with both exotic and wild animals, from bears to tigers to squirrels and raccoons,” she said.

The catalyst to host the hawk release in the Duke Gardens was a chance meeting between Mammone and Orla Swift, director of marketing and communications for the Gardens. The two met at a barred owl release hosted by CLAWS Inc. in Raleigh earlier this month and began discussing a possible release at the Duke Gardens.

“I have followed CLAWS Inc. on Facebook with great interest for some time and the timing was fortuitous in terms of CLAWS’s schedule and ours and Duke students’ return to campus,” Swift said. “We’re thrilled to welcome CLAWS Inc. for this unusual opportunity.”

Although these four hawks will be released from the Gardens, where they will reside after the release is undetermined.

“We hope that they stay in the Gardens, but they do have wings and need a one-mile area for their territory,” Mammone said. “This is not mating season, so my expectation is they will stick around in the area until it is time to find a mate and then will settle wherever the mate lives.”

Federal law prohibits CLAWS from putting any tracking mechanisms on the hawks, Mammone said. She noted, however, that releasing the birds in an area like the Duke Gardens increases the likelihood of hearing about them in the future.

“This is tough. On the one hand, we’ve spent five months raising them,” Mammone said. “On the other hand, usually we only hear if a bird is injured and we sure don’t want that call about any bird we release.”

The Gardens raffle to release the hawks will have four drawings. Duke students and staff may enter the raffle for free by posting a comment on the Garden's Facebook page about what it means to them to have the Gardens in the community. There will be one drawing for a member of the Duke community and three additional drawings for the general public.

Janice Little, director of education and public programs for the Duke Gardens, said that the event will be a great way to help people see the Gardens from a different perspective.

“I think this is a fantastic opportunity to get people thinking about gardens as not just plants, but rather plants that support insects, amphibians, songbirds, small mammals and, of course, these [hawks],” Little said.