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Larry Dolphin: “In early November in the ’90s, after our third grade program in the
fall, Red was able to fly free from the tether on my arm. To my distress, Red was flying
free for over two weeks. Red did not know how to get his own food, as he was human-
imprinted—raised by people. We continued to feed him outside and tried to recapture
him with mice left on the ground. In the meantime, he made a pest of himself. He was
swooping down and knocking walkers’ hats off their heads. The word got out in the
Austin community that ‘Red’ was loose and ‘swooping’ at walkers, so after a couple of
days, I noticed that the folks walking out here were looking to the sky with the perfect
cover of umbrellas over their heads. As an imprinted bird, this was Red’s way of saying
that this was his ‘home’ and he didn’t like that you were in his territory. As his adopted
parent, his behavior during that period was a little troubling to say the least. He got
pretty hungry, and we did recapture him by luring him to the ground with a big juicy rat.
Red was a wild ambassador and touched the lives of thousands of people who have
visited the Nature Center in the last 33 years. He presented the opportunity to connect
students and families directly to nature and the world of raptors. He was the longest-
working employee of the Nature Center, and he was paid with mice. I believe he may
have thought of me as his dad. I liked that thought.”
Jill DeMoss: “I spent a lot of time alone with Red in the evenings. It always brought a
smile to my face when I would call to him (we shared a secret sound), and he would
make his little peeps and waggle his wings, or build with his nesting sticks. He really
enjoyed his messy baths! I loved to watch the families come to the window to get a
closer look at his ‘majestic self.’ I recall once bringing my family that was visiting from
Virginia out for a gorgeous summer hike to our Nature Center. My youngest niece,
about 5 years old then, walked up to the window to gaze at Red. He bowed his head
and opened his wings, very hawk-like, and with a grin I readied my camera. She leaned
‘back’ at his display as he leaned ‘forward.’ I snapped a photo. It is adorable. I wonder
how many others have shared photo ops like this one? How many captured a memory
with Red? I have many… I know, for me, it is lonely and quiet without my feathery
friend...but I am proud to have had his companionship, to have fed and cared for him.
For all that his ‘mere presence’ taught and shared with our community, I am thankful.
He earned his wings on earth; may he soar forever in our hearts...”
Julie Champlin: “I will remember with love and respect the special place Red filled in
my life for 25 years. We developed a bond of trust during the many years he was here.
His journey came to an end in January, but his legacy will live on in the hearts of
people who met and cared for him. Red taught us about the power of raptors with his
keen eyesight, razor sharp talons, and beautiful brown and red plumage, which leaves a
lasting impact. Our daughter, Lisa Champlin Trygstad, grew up with Red, and I sent her
the wonderful article written about Red’s life and legacy from the Austin Daily Herald.
(Thank you, Eric Johnson!) She works at Medtronic in the Twin Cities and sent the story
about Red out to her co-workers since they have a resident red-tailed hawk outside their
huge work windows, and she got some awesome feedback! She was happy to say that
Red continues to educate even in his passing. For those of us who choose to work or
live with animals, it is inevitable to feel a terrible sadness when they pass. Red did have
a good, long life surrounded by people who cared for and loved him daily. Fly free,
Red, and call to all the red-tails in the skies. You will be forever loved, missed and
remembered, especially by me.”
Maria Anderson: “When I started working at the Nature Center, Larry and Julie told
me that Red didn’t get along very well with women, and when I first entered his
‘territory,’ Red screamed in my face. I was determined not to let him get away with that;
I respected him, and I expected the same in return. It was really rewarding to get to a
point where I could clean around him without upsetting him and to eventually build up
the mutual trust to be able to hold him on my arm. Interestingly, he did still get
territorial with me in the spring, and he always seemed especially distrustful of my toes.
But overall, working so closely with Red was an honor; I told kids that I didn’t even
mind cleaning up poop and removing guts from dead mice, because it was all part of
taking care of this cool bird who helped teach people to love and respect wild things.”
Kevin Murray: “I only had the honor and privilege of knowing Red for about a year,
but in that time he became a source of inspiration for me. I too spent a lot of my free
time with him, and as our bond grew, I saw a strength in his character I truly envied…
Fearlessness! It made me reflect on my own life and my own character. No matter what
challenges he faced in his life, he always faced them with unflinching self-confidence
and pride. I believe that was one of the reasons he lived so long; he never gave up!
Even in the end, he still stood tall and strong. That is one of the best lessons he ever
taught me. It definitely changed me as a person, making me stronger. The more I got to
know him, the more I learned from him. He showed me that even though he was
imprinted on humans for over 30 years, which meant he had to rely on us (his family) to
survive, he never gave up his independence. After all, he was still and always would be
a wild bird. When he looked into your eyes, you knew he was more than ‘just a pet.’ He
also proved that even though he was captive for most of his life and never actually had
a mate, he could still do more for his species and raptors in general than the vast
majority of all other hawks that have ever lived. Red was an amazing animal. He lived a
very long, happy life and was truly loved. Like the many before me, the things he taught
me will never be forgotten. While his passing was hard for all of us, I take solace in the
knowledge that he can now fly free and soar majestically as he always knew he could.
Although he is far away in body, his spirit lives on in all the hearts he touched, and the
love of his family and friends will always be with him. Rest in peace, my friend…”
Red’s Memorial: Sunday, April 21, 1:00 p.m.
You are cordially invited to Red’s Memorial, Tree Planting and Celebration. This event
is free and open to the public; cake and refreshments will be served in the Ruby
Rupner Auditorium after the memorial and before the WildSpirit concert.
Please RSVP to 507-437-7519 or email email@example.com by April 19.
This winter Red, the red tailed hawk at the Nature Center, stopped eating. We
knew he had health issues due to his age, but we were hopeful he would pull
through. We took him up to the Raptor Center in the Twin Cities, where they
performed a full check up and tried to get him eating again. After more than 30
years serving as an educational bird at our facility, we made the decision to have
Red euthanized. Later this spring we will have an event to remember Red's
Below the Nature Center staff shares some of their memories: