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Injured hawk saved by York Co. family released to freedom

Scott Coulter could have run right past the big injured bird in the middle of a country road near his home in northwestern York County last month.

But a car was bearing down on the bird, and Coulter didn't just keep jogging and watch this huge hawk get hit. He flagged down the car to stop, picked up the hawk and held it against his chest. Then, a stranger who stopped to look at the spectacle of a sweaty guy standing in the middle of road with a big bird in his hands gave him a ride home.

"I knew I didn't want to run the two miles home with a bird," said Coulter, a maintenance supervisor at the Catawba Nuclear Station. "Especially one that clearly had been hit by a car already. I jog seven days a week - have for 20 years. I got hit by a car once myself, so I know what it feels like. Pain."

Scott, his wife, Angie, and 14-year-old daughter, Nicole, took the bird to the Carolina Raptor Center, a nonprofit in Huntersville, N.C., north of Charlotte, that specializes in aiding injured birds of prey. The Coulters found out the bird was a red-shouldered hawk, native to both the East and West coasts and one of two hawk species common to this area. The center was happy to help - it assists in the rescue of about 700 birds each year - but first, the hawk needed a name.

"They named it 'Beam Me Up Scotty,' because Scott found it," said Angie Coulter.

The bird had no broken bones but two injured eyes and likely had been hit by a car as it was hunting, said Michele Houck, spokeswoman for the Raptor Center.

If the Coulters hadn't assisted, it probably would not have survived, said Houck, whose center relies on donations to help birds.

"With injured eyes, the hawk would not have been able to hunt and eat," she said.

Thursday afternoon, after weeks of medication and rehabilitation at the Raptor Center, Beam Me Up Scotty was ready to be released. The family invited Wendy and Wesley Taylor and their little daughters Eva and Sophia. Scott's mother, Nancy, came, too, and all went out to almost the same spot in the shadow of Nanny's Mountain where Scott had found Scotty.

Scotty was inside a big cardboard box, with air holes in it, taped up on the top. Scotty raised a ruckus in that box all right, maybe sensing he was home.

Scott Coulter unwrapped the tape and pointed the box away from his face. And in just about two or three seconds, Scotty beamed himself up. Scotty flew away into the trees in a flash and was gone.

Hawks are migratory, but because the release was near where the hawk was found, Scotty might decide to hang around the same area, Houck said.

Yet the chances are good the family will never see Scotty again, even though the Raptor Center banded Scotty's leg in case he is ever found. And the release lasted just a few seconds.

But everybody who saw it learned that it takes just a few seconds to help and that those few seconds can turn into something that makes everybody feel good.

"The bird is free because it wasn't left on the road," said 7-year-old Sophia Taylor. "We should always help out someone if they need it."

And that little girl just about summed it up. Something, somebody, needs a hand, you give one.

"It was beautiful to watch Beam Me Up Scotty fly away," said Angie Coulter. "Free as a bird."