MakeShift Challenge: Rescue a Hawk: Most Creative

MakeShift 24: Most Creative: Daniel Chamudot
by Lee D. Zlotoff
Volume 24, 2010

It’s easiest to divide the problem in two: rescuing the mother hawk and rescuing the young chicks.
Rescuing the mother hawk is mainly a challenge of properly handling a full-grown, injured bird of prey until you reach a wildlife center. An injured hawk is easily frightened and will attack with its talons or beak if it feels threatened. If it hasn’t been stunned by the fall, you must approach it with caution from behind, both to avoid endangering yourself and to ensure that the hawk experiences as little stress as possible for the best chance of recovery. Fortunately, darkness usually relaxes birds, so the goal here is to safely pick up and transport the hawk in some sort of dark container.
Saving the young chicks involves a tougher challenge. Ideally you would collect the baby hawks and take them along to the wildlife center. However, they’re in a nest 25 ft. above the ground, and there’s no realistic way to climb up to the nest without risking your life. Presumably the chicks cannot fly yet, so the possibility of enticing them to jump down is unlikely. The only remaining option is to somehow retrieve the nest– babies and all– from the treetop while staying on the ground.

Impossible? Not for a team of Girl Scout makers!

I. Saving Mother Hawk

1) Empty out three backpacks, preferably whichever are the softest, lightest, and most flexible, yet have durable lining. Take several cloth bandanas and duct-tape them into the large pocket of one backpack so that they completely line the interior surfaces. Fill the bottom of the pocket with cotton balls and gauze pads from the first-aid kit to make a soft floor for the pocket. This is where the hawk will be placed.
2) Put each hand into the large pocket of the other two backpacks and wear the backpacks like oversized gloves. Zip the pockets tightly around your arms to prevent them from slipping. Thick gloves are commonly used to handle birds of prey to prevent their sharp talons from piercing skin.
3) Slowly approach the hawk from behind and carefully pick it up with your backpack-gloves. Hold it upright with the wings folded against the body. Have another scout wrap a bandana around the hawk’s body, making sure to cover its eyes. The bandana provides a blindfold and protects the hawk’s feathers and wings.
4) Slowly lower it into the prepared container-backpack so that its beak is towards the opening of the pocket. Close the pocket’s zipper enough to block light, but leave a gap near the top for air. Remove the backpacks from your arms and set them aside for later.

II. Saving Young Chicks

1) Make a slingshot: Use the Swiss Army knife to sever two of the bungee cords from one of the tents. Find a sturdy, forked branch and implement your Girl-Scout skills to tie the ends of the bungee cords to both “prongs” of the branch with a Two Half Hitches knot. Secure the connections with some duct-tape. Connect the two bungee cords in the middle with a flat piece of duct-tape. This forms the “holder” of the slingshot. Wrap duct-tape around the handle of the slingshot to improve grip.

2) Gather the shoelaces from the hiker’s boots of all the scouts. Each heavy-duty hiker’s shoelace should be about 3 ft. long, and with 8 pairs of boots this amounts to a good 48 ft. of shoelace rope. Tie all of the shoelaces end-to-end with Sheet Bend knots and reinforce the connections with plenty of duct-tape. To reduce friction, smear the whole rope with generous quantities of Vaseline from the first-aid kit.
3) Get a smooth stone from the rocky mountain stream and tape it securely to the end of the shoelace-rope. This stone will be the slingshot’s projectile. The other end of the rope can be tied to the handle of the slingshot or held firmly in another scout’s hands.
4) Use the slingshot to launch the stone over the branch which holds the hawk’s nest. The rope will follow the trajectory of the stone. You want the rope to end up draped over the branch, about a foot from the nest. The weight of the stone will pull the rope over the branch and back down towards the ground. The nest is only 25 ft. high, so the rope will be about a foot off the ground from both ends. Locate a second branch parallel to the first one and a couple of feet away, and launch the stone-rope over it as well. Now the rope is draped over two branches and hangs 2-4 ft. off the ground. Detach the stone and tie the two ends of the rope together (securing with duct-tape, of course). You’ve made a loop around two branches which can be rotated like a conveyor belt by pulling on either end. The Vaseline helps the rope move smoothly.


5) Fill a backpack with some bags of trail-mix. Tape the backpack tightly to the rope on the bottom, and with the help of two scouts on both sides of the loop, pull and rotate until the backpack has reached the top of the loop between the two branches. Release the rope and allow the backpack to fall downwards, forming a loop with two twists on both branches.


6) Pull the backpack several feet up along the loop. Next, stick two strips of duct-tape near the bottom of the loop to form the skeleton of a “bowl.” Unfurl the nylon tarp of one of the tents and stuff it into the makeshift bowl, duct-taping it onto the rope if necessary. This creates a bowl of soft, nylon material to catch the nest.

7) Shift the rope forward on both branches until it is directly underneath the nest.
8) Pull the backpack and bowl up the loop away from the nest. When the backpack finally reaches behind the nest, the bowl should be wide-open on the rope right below. Just one more tug on the loop, and the nest will be pushed right into the bowl. The manner in which the bowl was formed ensures that the bowl won’t tip over and spill the nest [The diagrams on the left-hand column are a side view, while the right-hand column gives a front-end view].

9) Once the nest is completely held in the bowl, release the rope. The weight of the bowl and backpack will untwist the loop and bring this makeshift nest-elevator all the way down to the scouts.

10) Wrap each of the young hawk chicks in a bandana and insert them into a separate backpack, zipping the pockets enough to provide darkness but permit airflow. Disconnect the shoelace-conveyor belt and hike back to the wildlife center with your containers.

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