Nature Center says goodbye to beloved hawk

Published 7:15 pm Tuesday, March 28, 2023

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

The Jay C. Hormel Nature Center has announced that one of its two red tailed hawks at the center has been put to sleep.

The center said goodbye to the hawk, Wiyaka, who came to the center when it built its new Interpretive Center.

“It is with heavy hearts that we bring the sad news of the passing of our female red tailed hawk, Wiyaka,” a release Tuesday morning said. “She was around eight years old and has been with us here at the Nature Center since the new building opened in 2017.”

Wiyaka. Photo provided

Email newsletter signup

In recent weeks, staff began to notice Wiyaka’s health began to deteriorate due to complications from an old wing injury the hawk had suffered. The statement read that in order to ensure the hawk’s comfort and quality of life, they decided to say goodbye.

“Wiyaka had a fiery spirit and attitude fit for a top predator making her such a great education bird,” the statement read. “Her highest motivator in life was food (extremely relateable) and she didn’t like anything to get in her way when it was lunchtime. Her motivation, smarts, and sharp wit made her such a fun challenge when it came to training.”

Wiyaka, whose name comes from the Lakota word for feather, came to Austin from Indiana, where she was struck by a car and sustained injuries to her left wing making it impossible for her to be released back into the wild after rehabilitation. 

She then found her new home in Austin and “has been spoiled and cared for ever since.”

“For the past few years Wiyaka and our staff worked hard to get her gloved trained so she could enjoy walks in the sunshine, do programs for visitors, as well as have more one-on-one training,” the statement said. “Her unique and strong personality made it impossible to not love her.”

“Fly High Wi, the skies are yours. We miss you already.” 

The loss comes just months after the Nature Center had to put visitor-favorite, Guka,  the center’s barred owl, to sleep in December.