LONDON, ONT. -- Salthaven Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre are starting the new year on a high note - by releasing a red-tailed hawk named Rudy on Monday.

Brian Salt, founder of Salthaven, says Rudy - a juvenile red-tailed hawk - first entered Salthaven's care on Oct. 20, 2020. 

Rudy was found on the outskirts of London with a pellet from an air gun lodged in one of his wings. 

"Rudy was found near a dumpster, he was dumpster diving because he had been shot and had a fractured wing."

The Salthaven crew started with wing wraps until the wing started to heal properly - before the pellet could be removed in a separate surgery.

Rudy was taken to VCA Canada Masonville Animal Hospital where veterinarians worked to get the lead pellet out. He was then sent to Salthaven for his recovery and rehabilitation. 

"He was not in good shape, he was not flying, he was very thin…but his feathers were in reasonably good shape," Salt says.

"This is a combination of effort from our crew at Salthaven, a lot of attention goes into diet and repair work, making sure the animal is fit for release as soon as possible."

Salt and his crew members met in a quiet place on the south side of London to release Rudy after months of care, they also streamed the release on their Facebook page for the community to see. 

"It’s so nice to see…your heart sort of soars with them." 

Red-tailed hawks are one of raptors known for helping control the rodent populations.

"Red-tailed hawks are probably the largest hawk in southwestern Ontario. They are very common…they’re soaring birds…you see them in the city and out in the country.. they’re beautiful.” 

While Rudy was hurt by a pellet gun, Salt says many birds of prey are at risk of poisoning from secondary rodent pesticides. 

"We don’t realize it but we are actually poisoning the [birds] that help us with rodent control." 

Salthaven saw about 1,000 animals in 2020 and approx. 65 per cent recovered and were released. 

Just a couple days ago the sanctuary received another red-tailed hawk needing rehabilitation. 

"Our volunteers have worked hard and measure up to any challenge…we’re hoping we can help him in the same way."