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Eastern Sierra hikers asked to keep eyes peeled for Karma, the red-tailed hawk

November 10, 2009 |  1:15 pm

Karma the red-tailed hawk Hikers, birders and other visitors to the Eastern Sierra are encouraged to be on the lookout for Karma, an adult male red-tailed hawk that for the past two-plus years had resided at the Eastern Sierra Wildlife Care facility in Bishop.

The majestic raptor was believed to have been kept illegally as a pet before it was abandoned in the wild. It could not fly when it was discovered floundering and suffering from heat prostration and brought to the center, which cares for injured and abandoned critters.

But Karma learned to fly at the facility and was regularly driven afield for brief falconry-type flights. He always returned to his handlers, but last Thursday in the Keough Hot Springs area west of Highway 395, he dipped behind an outcropping and disappeared.

Cindy Kamler, who runs the facility, told Outposts that people have been scouring a two-square-mile area but have not spotted the bird, which is wearing black leather bracelets on both legs and might be trailing a short orange cord. 

It's feared that Karma will be unable to fend for himself or find his own food, but Kamler is hopeful and cites a few instances where the bird captured and killed sparrows that had entered its enclosure.

Interestingly, it had recently begun communicating with wild hawks during its flights, notably a juvenile red-tailed hawk that was present during Karma's last controlled flight. Could Karma simply have answered the call of the wild and sought freedom?

Kamler concedes it's a doubtful scenario, since the bird had been raised in captivity. "It'd be unique," Kamler says, "but not impossible."

Anyone who spots the hawk is urged to call the center at (760) 872-1487.

-- Pete Thomas

Photo of Karma the red-tailed hawk courtesy of Chris Morrison