I’m going to leave the uncles and-aunts remembrances until next week because of a disturbing event that happened at the Animal Rehabilitation Keep (ARK) and University of Texas Marine Science Institute (UTMSI) over the weekend of March 10-11.
On Saturday night, about midnight, vandals decided to do damage to the ARK and to the UTMSI pier and the instrument lab at the head of the pier. These might have been Spring Breakers, but because of the extent of their vandalism, they were nothing short of malicious criminals and thieves to boot. I say thieves because they stole one of the ARK’s birds, a red-tailed hawk that was in the outside flight cage getting some flight exercise before being released.
They broke into the flight cage and captured the hawk and were just making off with the bird when Jim Moreno, our security guard, stopped to question them. They dropped the hawk and ran off, and Port Aransas police were called in. The hawk was recovered and taken to the ARK, where it was put in a carrier for the night, a little battered and bewildered, but not badly hurt.
Meanwhile, it was discovered that these miscreants had broken onto the pier, destroyed every one of the green navigation lights, broke into the instrument room and discharged a dry fire extinguisher all over the contents of the lab and the instruments that monitor the weather, tides, currents and a complicated machine that monitors microscopic plankton (including the red tide organism) wafting in and out with the tidal currents. Remarkably, the instruments did not stop working while the mayhem was going on, and you can still follow the tides, weather and sea conditions by going to http:// nearshore.utmsi.utexas.edu/ spreadsheets/snapshot.htm for a snapshot of the weather or http://nearshore.utmsi. utexas.edu/spreadsheets/today. htm to look at today’s charts.
So, here’s the mystery: What were they going to do with the hawk? How did they capture it? A red-tailed hawk is a formidable animal to capture and hold, and I hope it locked its talons around the arm of its tormentor. That really stings! Hawks are a protected species, and the offense of interfering with or hurting a hawk is an offense punishable by federal laws.
A dismembered laughing gull was found on the deck leading up to the pier. I did not get to see that bird and do not know whether these people killed this bird or not. This was a most disturbing incident, and we’re upset to realize that there are people out there who would harm the very animals we strive to save and who think nothing of destroying equipment that provides important safety information to all of us living on the coast.
Tony Amos is a research fellow at UTMSI in Port Aransas and director of the ARK.