A reddish-brown hawk that has become a familiar attraction for thousands of visitors to Riverbend Park in Fairfax County has been stolen from his outdoor perch, a park naturalist reported yesterday.
The naturalist, Gary Johnston, said the hawk named Adak, has been the mascot for the park's nature center since it was brought there three years ago with a gunshot would to its left wing. About half of the wing was amputated, leaving the bird unable to fly, he said.
Johnston said the hawk, along with a five-foot rope and metal ring that kept the bird near its perch, was missing when he arrived for work on Wednesday morning.
The bird has sharp talons and "could puncture" a person's skin if it has to defend itself, Johnston said. The bird also has a special diet of mice and rodents without which it could perish, he said.
"Normally, we don't keep wild animals," Johnston said, "but since he couldn't fly he served as our mascot."
Johnston said the hawk, which is "a little larger than a crow," was attached to the metal ring, which in turn was secured to a 15-pound pole placed in a pipe in the ground.
The park official said when he arrived to work Wednesday the pole had been pulled out of the ground. "There isn't any way the bird could lift it out of the ground," he said.
Johnston said the bird is "fairly tame, but still a little wild." He said if approached, hawks normally try to grab a person and could puncture the skin if a person doesn't have thick leather gloves to protect his hands.
The naturalist said the hawk needs the special mice and rodent diet because of the calcium the bones of those animals provide. "He (Adak) will eat meat, but he doesn't get all the minerals and necessary diet." He said without the proper diet, the hawk will eventually die.
Johnston said the thief or thieves could find it expensive to feed mice to the hawk because mice bought at pet stores cost about 50 cents each. Adak regularly consumed nine mice a day.
"We would really like to get him back," Johnston said. "He (Adak) was an attraction here."
The official said the nature center also houses toads, turtles, fish, lizards and a snake. He said about two years ago, a crow was stolen from the center. The bird was returned, he said, but died three weeks later.