Checking in on Isaac the Hawk

It’s almost been a year since Issac the Hawk became a permanent Maryville College resident. Dr. Danielle Lincoln, MC’s Chemical Hygiene and Natural Sciences Office, provided an insider update as Isaac’s primary caretaker.

Issac the Hawk is a red-tailed hawk that was rescued and relocated to the Maryville College campus last year. His home is a mew, a small building made for trained hawks, adjoining the back side of Sutton Science Center.  

Issac’s age remains unknown as it becomes indiscernible once red-tailed hawks reach adulthood. Issac is unable to fly because of a shotgun injury he sustained before being taken in for rehabilitation. His right shoulder is damaged, and he still carries one of the shotgun pellets in his torso.

In the future, Issac will serve as an assistant in avian and biology-themed programming for students, but certain steps must be taken before this can become a reality.

The main objective is to get him accustomed to humans, which looks a little different for a wild animal than a domestic cat or dog.

“At the start of this semester, we started trying to get him glove trained specifically, rather than just acclimatized,” Lincoln said.

This training process is aimed at familiarizing Issac with a glove and close human interaction. Issac, rescued after living primarily in the wild, requires different training than one who has spent most of its life in captivity. Lincoln contrasts Isaac’s behavior with her other hawk, Jesse.

“[Jesse] is a much more laid-back bird. They’re much more tolerant of a bunch of different things…But when you do something like that to Issac, he gives you a look like, ‘What are you doing?’” Lincoln said with a laugh.

Nonetheless, Isaac has made steady progress.

“He has gone from hesitatingly eating food that was placed near a glove on a perch while you stand in a corner, to jumping to the glove that you have mice in as you’re holding it and eating while on the glove, which is a huge amount of progress in a few months.” Lincoln said. 

The next goal is to get him used to human touch. 

It is only happenstance that no students are involved with Isaac’s daily care this semester. Previous students have helped feed him and clean his living quarters. Currently, his daily needs are met by Lincoln and fellow professors. 

Issac lives on campus year-round, even throughout breaks. On chilly winter nights, he’s moved someplace warm, returning to his mew the next day. He fluffs his feathers to keep warm throughout the day.

Issac’s diet largely consists of mice, which lab fees are helping to pay for. 

“The hope is that as he gets more glove trained, we will be able to get more students involved and maybe even use him in senior research projects,” Lincoln said. Students, particularly in the sciences, can look forward to spending more time with Isaac in the coming semesters.

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