Two endangered Hawaiian hawks were found wounded on the Big Island after apparently being shot with a pellet gun, and federal wildlife officials want to know who is responsible.
The hawks were treated at the Three Ring Ranch, a Kailua-Kona exotic animal sanctuary and wildlife rehab facility.
One was found April 27 and the other on March 20, said Ann Goody, the facility’s curator. She said finding two injured birds in six weeks is alarming because the sanctuary normally sees just one hurt every several years.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is investigating and seeking information from the public about what happened to the birds, said George Phocas, the agency’s resident agent in charge for Hawaii and Pacific islands.
The Hawaiian hawk is "protected by state and federal law both, and it has cultural significance to the native Hawaiian culture," Phocas said. There are about 3,000 of the hawks remaining.
"It’s kind of like the bald eagle of the islands," said Bryan Landry, a special agent for the Fish and Wildlife Service.
The hawks, called "’io" in Hawaiian, were a symbol of royalty in Hawaiian legend, according the agency.
Goody suspects the hawks were shot because they were diving down and eating chickens. She fears that people who keep chickens are harming the hawks to stop them from killing chickens they rely on to help put food on the table.
"Because of their nature, the young birds tend to strike at anything that moves," Goody said. "These guys are going right after people’s chickens."
One of the birds was found in a residential neighborhood, on a property near a home that keeps backyard chickens, Goody said. "Someone who has a dozen birds in their yard, they lose one and it means a lot to them," she said.
The hawk found in March has been treated and released, Goody said, while the one found last month is recovering with a bullet lodged in its chest and is expected to be released in a week or two.