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Strangers work together to rescue hawk tangled in fishing line

Posted at 9:27 PM, May 16, 2022

TEMPE, AZ — A hawk stuck in a tree in Tempe was able to get to safety thanks to the problem-solving of a group of pool specialists and other strangers in the area at the time.

When Arizona hits triple-digit heat, Vern Leland of Aquatic Environmental Services in Tempe is typically busy helping keep pools running across the Valley but he started off his week doing something a little bit away from his ‘wing span’.

He, a few of his team members and some bystanders that included Robert Scantleury helped get a hawk, tangled in fishing line, get out of a tree branch 25-30 feet above the ground.

Vern says they called authorities but the urgency they felt for the hawk wasn’t shared so they stepped into action themselves.

”After a while we kind of decided we haven’t come across too many tasks we couldn’t accomplish ourselves,” he said.

So, a group of pool guys and other bystanders pushed themselves out of their 'comfort nest' and decided to use a mixture of pool tools to get the hawk down – which was basically attaching a knife to the end of a pool skimmer.

Vern said they were able to free the bird by “cutting the fishing string it was tangled up in.”

The whole operation took about half an hour to get the bird free.

A video shot by Scantlebury shows the moment the string is cut to set the hawk loose. Robert, a retired police officer, can be seen quickly chasing after the bird.

“If we can help, we will,” said Vern.

It’s unclear how long the hawk was stuck in the tree.

Vern and his team made one call to Liberty Wildlife and left a message.

They were able to respond to the area near Hayden Road and McKellips and picked up the hawk to start its recovery.

That hawk is now rehabbing at the Liberty Wildlife facility south of Sky Harbor in Phoenix. The hawk will be there until it is ready to be rereleased out into the wild.

Nathan Thrash with the non-profit, Liberty Wildlife said “Animals tangled in fishing line isn’t uncommon.”

After a medical assessment, he says dehydration and stress likely kept the female red-tailed hawk from walking around but when ABC15 visited the hawk later in the day, we learned there wasn’t any major wing damage and she’s expected to recover.

“Our criteria for releases, there needs to be the same species nearby, near a water source, we want to make sure they’re not releasing them to where this problem can happen again,” said Nathan.

Nathan urges anyone fishing, not to cut their line but throw it away to keep things like this from happening.

For Vern and his crew, it’s only Monday, so just think of what else they may encounter this week.

“Started the Monday off the right way,” said Vern.