A bird with an injured wing is on its way to recovery after being rescued in Keene earlier this month by three high-school students.
Jenny Whitcomb, 18, Izzie Sutton, 18, and Ella Hines, 16 — all on Keene High School’s lacrosse team — spotted the bird between a set of bleachers and a fence at Scripture Field around 5 p.m. on April 6, shortly after their practice ended.
It’s unknown how the merlin, a member of the falcon family, was injured.
“We tried to call animal control, the police department, the humane society, and nobody was open,” said Whitcomb, a Keene resident.
Finally, after asking her mom for some guidance, Whitcomb called Winchester Wildlife Rehabilitation Center, a nonprofit organization on Watson Road.
It was about a half-hour before its owner, Deb Gode, could get to them, so the girls made sure the bird — thought to be about one year old — didn’t try to get away.
“It tried to fly and couldn’t,” Whitcomb said. “... When [Deb] got there, she was prepared and sort of tackled it to the ground.”
The girls — Whitcomb and Hines attend Keene High, while Sutton is a Monadnock Regional High School student who plays lacrosse for Keene — decided to help because they were worried the bird would die if they left it, according to Whitcomb.
“We just could tell it was injured and probably wouldn’t survive the night because it’s warm during the day, but at night it gets kind of chilly, and also it could’ve been eaten by another animal,” she said.
Now, more than a week since the rescue, Gode said the bird is doing well.
Winchester Wildlife Rehabilitation Center helps rehabilitate sick or injured animals from across the state to then release back into the wild or — if the animal is too badly hurt to live on its own — to be put in an educational facility as an ambassador for its species.
Last year, Gode said, she helped 425 mammals and birds. This is the first merlin she’s helped this year.
When the bird first arrived at the center, Gode said it couldn’t even get off the ground. But now, the merlin’s starting to fly a bit, and should be able to be released in a few weeks.
“She’s in a flight cage, and once she’s flighted so she can hunt, then we’ll release her,” Gode said. “We have to see those behaviors, and her flight behavior has to be perfect before we release her.”