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Peregrine falcon released into the wild after recovering from head and spine injury


By Pam Surano

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    BUTLER COUNTY, Pennsylvania (KDKA) — A blue sky over Moraine State Park was the backdrop for a story of environmental healing and wildlife renewal two years in the making.

Nike, the peregrine falcon, was flying free in open skies on Monday after her long journey from Ohio to Pittsburgh.

Hatched near Canton in 2019, Nike suffered a head and spine injury as a fledgling. The young bird of prey never learned the hunting skills critical to survival.

“Because they dive for their prey from anywhere from 300 feet in the air to 3,000 feet, you really can’t do that in any flight building,” said Carol Holmgren, the executive director of the Tamarack Wildlife Center.

That’s why the young bird was sent to the Tamarack Wildlife Center in Saegertown. The center has flight space, falconers and wild rehab. After she was well, master falconers began to teach Nike real-world hunting skills.

“I’m also hoping people can be inspired by Nike’s return. It took a lot of collaboration to put her back in the sky,” Holmgren said.

Peregrine falcons were wiped out in the 1960s due to the impacts of DDT. Due to reintroduction efforts by the Pennsylvania Game Commission, the birds are hatching again.

Pittsburghers have loved watching them high atop the Cathedral of Learning and other skyscrapers.

“It’s been a real privilege to work with her to get to know her and to build that trusting relationship. And now it’s time for her to be free,” Holmgren said.

Peregrine falcons are still threatened, and that’s why the Tamarack Wildlife Center’s mission to help Nike was as important as her own.

“She’s meant to be in the sky, and she’s meant to be hopefully one of those birds that helping to repopulate peregrine’s on our state,” Holgren said.

The Tamarack Wildlife Center is the only licensed Wildlife Rehabilitation Center in northwestern Pennsylvania. The center takes in 1,000 birds and animals yearly.

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