Niagara Gazette

Communities

June 24, 2013

Healed turkey vulture set free into the Niagara Gorge

Niagara Gazette — Turkey vultures are not particularly elegant birds. On the ground, their red heads that make them look a bit like the ungainly birds that headline at Thanksgiving — thus, the name. Plus vultures mostly scavenge for dead meat that somebody else has killed so that doesn’t enhance their status.  

But watching one released at the edge of the Niagara Gorge this past Monday, it’s expansive wings sweeping gracefully through a perfect blue sky, was a dramatic and breathtaking sight for a handful of humans who had worked together to save the bird from the brink of death. 

Likely a full-grown male, although only a DNA test could say for sure, it was found by a pair of Canisius College students walking through the woods in North Boston, last month.  

Phil Shore, 19, of Kenmore, and his girlfriend, Katlin Griffin, 19, of Cheektowaga, had been walking on land owned by Shore’s family. Just off the trail, Shore spotted what looked to him like a big dead bird. When the pair walked over to look more closely at the creature — which was trapped by its legs in an illegal trap set by a poacher — it blinked.

Startled by the signs of life, the pair moved quickly to get help. Shore called the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and the responding officer, Michael Mazurkiewicz, contacted Campbell Environmental Center, founded by Town of Tonawanda resident Tim O’Day. The center, located in O’Day’s home in North Boston, is a healing center for avian species and especially birds of prey.

O’Day said it was amazing that the bird was found it the isolated location, and added that the bird would have suffered greatly if not saved by the pair.

“The chances of their finding it was like finding a needle in a haystack,” O’Day said. “It would have suffered a million deaths, just laying there, waiting to be eaten by a coyote or starving to death. Eventually it would have bled to death. Either way it was doomed.” 

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