A Krider's Red-tail Hawk was released back into the wild Monday after spending months undergoing surgeries and rehab at the Great Plains Zoo.
It was an exciting day for this hawk. That wasn't the case a few months ago. The bird was brought to Great Plains Zoo by the South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks Department with a broken wing. Veterinarian Jb Minter repaired the broken limb, but it was still a long time before the hawk could soar.
"What we do is called creance flying where we take him out and we condition the bird. We fly the bird to make sure that it's flying and it's not getting tired and the endurance level is where it needs to be," Jb Minter said.
The hard work paid off as the bird soared through the air when it was released back into the wild.
"It pulls at a heart string to watch something that you've dealt with months and months to watch him fly off and he's going to go back doing his thing," Minter said.
There's been a rising number of birds getting cared for at the Sioux Falls Zoo.
"We've been doing raptor rehabilitation for many, many years but the volume of birds and our ability to really serve these birds have really increased over time," Great Plains Zoo President and CEO Elizabeth Whealy said.
Minter says the zoo rehabs about 50 birds a year. Some are cared for for months, while some are there for just a day.
No matter the size of the bird, or how long the rehab takes, Minter says it's crucial to get every species back into the wild.
"They are part of the environment. They are part of the ecosystem. Raptors in general are takers of rodents, so putting that bird back into the ecosystem is just filling that niche of that particular species," Minter said.
That's why this bird taking off gives a sense of pride that won't land anytime soon.
The zoo also recently released an Eastern Screech Owl, a Snowy Owl and a Great Horned Owl into the wild.