It started as a leisurely walk toward Lake Okabena.
But it ended up being quite the experience for Ryan and Julia Seykora.
“Saturday afternoon, we were walking the dog where the old outdoor pool used to be, kind of around the marsh area,” Ryan said. “We were actually looking for turtles or salamanders, but we were just walking.
“Julia looks over and sees this bird lying on the ground. All you could see was white because it was lying on its back. She saw it move its wings. I didn’t see it, but she walks over there. I had the dog, so I was just waiting. She walks over there and said, ‘Oh, my God, it’s alive. Ryan, it’s a hawk.’”
Julia went over to the animal, who was struggling.
“I was like, ‘I think we can save it,’” Julia said. “So Ryan ran home and got the truck. We gave it some water and made it comfortable and put it in a dark, cool room. I thought if he makes it through the night or until Monday, hopefully we can take him somewhere.”
Ryan and the dog ran back to their home on Lakehill Drive to retrieve a vehicle.
“I get there and grab a blanket because I don’t know what to put this in,” Ryan explained. “I had no idea, so I grabbed a blanket. I get back there and Julia is still sitting there and petting it right on the breast. I give her the blanket and she wraps it up and we hop in the truck. He was very docile and very relaxed. We drove to the Vet Medical Center to see what the vet on call has to say. The guy said, ‘There is this woman in Spirit Lake who takes in animals, why don’t you try calling her.’”
The Seykoras called Linda Hinshaw in Spirit Lake, Iowa.
“We called and she didn’t answer,” Ryan said. “We put the hawk in a cat’s kennel and fed it some water. I kind of kept checking on him. We put him in the bedroom where it was not too cold, but it was comfortable with a fan circulating air in there. I woke up about 8 a.m. and it was still alive again, which was shocking, because I thought it was going to die.”
With the bird still recovering, Ryan opened his computer early Sunday morning. Hinshaw’s number was still on the screen.
“The crazy thing was I wasn’t even going to call this woman back,” Ryan said. “We were going to wait until Monday because we figured it was a business. I just happened to open the computer and her page was still up, we had just closed the laptop.”
Luckily, Hinshaw answered.
“I was describing to her what happened,” Ryan said. “She wanted to make sure it was a hawk first because a lot of people bring her some other birds and that’s not what she does.
“We drove down there and the hawk was a little more agitated and more active. We figured that was a good thing that he was still OK. We get there and she was examining the hawk. The hawk was just as calm as could be. He had an injury on the base of its tail; it’s called the lower spine. You could see it was an open wound. The legs were fine and the wings were fine, which was real good.”
The hawk was going to receive some antibiotics and some food and water.
“We called her (Monday) morning,” Ryan said. “She said it is an immature Cooper’s hawk. But it’s a younger one because of the colors and things like that and because its eyes haven’t changed colors to red, like an older hawk. She said it was doing really well and it was actually up on a perch and it ate some chicken.”
But the night it spent with the Seykoras is one they won’t soon forget.
“We named it Steven Hawking,” Ryan said. “I wanted Tony or Faux, but Steven was the name. The cool part was he was like a pet because he was so calm.
“You could tell that it knew we were there to help it or something like that. It didn’t try to bite or peck or anything. At one point, it wrapped its talons around Julia’s finger. It was crazy.”
Steven had a myriad of colors and stood roughly 18 inches tall.
“The talons on that thing were long; it had all sorts of colors,” Julia said. “Every time you moved a feather, a new color popped up. It had really intense eyes and it was really pretty.”
Once Steven is strong enough to be on his own again, he will be released into a nature center.
“It would have died because it couldn’t help itself,” Ryan said. “It couldn’t move so dehydration and the heat or whatever, there was no way it could have moved. When we had it, he couldn’t move in the kennel. He would try to flop, but one wing would work. That’s why we thought he broke a wing, but the wings were fine.”
While some may be timid to approach a hawk, there was no second thought for Julia.
“People are like, ‘Why did you even attempt to touch it? He could have had lice or parasites or something like that.’ I guess I didn’t even think about that,” she said. “It didn’t even cross my mind. It was just pick up the bird and save him. It’s very rewarding. We miss him, but we’re happy that he’s doing good.”
This wasn’t the first time Julia has helped an animal. She has saved an albino squirrel, a goose and a duck, to name a few.
“I think the main reason why is anyone who knows me, I’m such a sucker for animals,” she said. “To me, it was an opportunity to see an animal like that up close. When do you ever get to say I had a hawk in my house?
“Knowing that he’s going to be OK and he’s going to make it, whether he’s here or not, we know he’s going to make it. He’s a baby, so maybe he’ll make more babies. It just feels good. I would hope someone else walking through the park wouldn’t have just left him there.”