Flying High Over a Hawk’s Rescue

A Fontana animal services officer is overwhelmed after getting more than she bargained for in the unique process.

In her 10 years working in animal services, Jamie Simmons has rescued numerous raptors. But what she has rarely done is return any of them to their nest.

Simmons, the supervising animal services officer for the Fontana Police Department, got that chance last week with a young red-tailed hawk and couldn’t be more pleased.

“Rarely do we have the opportunity to return them to their nest,” Simmons said. “We usually send them to the permitted raptor rehabbers. [Last week’s] situation was very special and I can't thank you enough.”

Simmons’ reference is to the assistance she received from Southern California Edison senior biologist Kara Donohue, Safety and Environmental specialist Wayne Williams, Mike Ward, a senior transmission patrolman, and John Egan, a lineman, in safely returning a fallen hawk probably flying for the first time from its nest 60 feet up on a transmission tower near the Southridge community.

She was unsure what would happen before she called SCE, but she was surprised and ecstatic about what happened afterward.

“When I initially called SCE, I was not sure if you could help,” said Simmons. “Not only did I receive a call back, you provided some of your experts in the environmental field.”

“I spoke with your corporate biologist. I had no idea SCE has biologists on staff,” she added. “I was very impressed with the careful instruction she gave to the workers there with me regarding handling this young hawk. She and I both agreed the hawk should be returned to the nest if possible.”

In fact, a team of 16 SCE biologists, including Donohue, does its part to protect the biological resources (plant and wildlife) in the utility’s service territory while simultaneously maintaining and improving system reliability.

“It's a win-win for the birds and the company,” said Donohue, of the avian protection program that was created in 1988 to prevent bird electrocutions and power outages caused by birds.

It certainly was last week in Fontana, where Donohue, via phone, began by asking Williams questions about the situation, including requesting photos to determine the age and species of the bird, whether the nest was intact and accessible and whether adult birds were in the area and seemed to be aware of the young hawk.

“We deal with nests as a part of our avian protection program,” said Donohue. “Our first choice is to leave nests alone. If they aren't hazardous to our system, we leave them in place. It's better to have the nest in a location that doesn't threaten our facilities than to remove it and have it rebuilt in a bad location.”

As for nests in locations where they could cause an outage or worse, they are removed as long as they’re not currently being used by the birds.

“If the nest has eggs or chicks and has caused an outage or poses imminent danger, we will work with the wildlife agencies to get permission to move the nest or take the eggs or chicks to a wildlife rehabilitator,” Donohue said. “This is the safest option for both the birds as well as human safety.”

But you can probably guess Donohue’s favorite part of her job.

“Probably the days when I have a situation with a happy ending like [Fontana],” said Donohue, who says she deals most with common ravens, American crows and red-tailed hawks, but also many songbird species nesting in SCE facilities.

“But overall, I'm really happy to be making a palpable difference for birds. I know that working on our avian program and improving the way we respond to issues with birds on our system benefits the birds I love as well as the company I work for.”

Donohue won’t get any argument from Simmons.

“I had no idea of the care and attention SCE provides to the environment and wildlife,” said Simmons. “Your raptor nest program overwhelmed me.  

“I was impressed with the vast knowledge SCE workers have regarding the raptors’ nesting season (which runs from about February to August) and the care they give not to harm or encroach on those existing nest on the towers and poles.”