Twenty to 30 people stood next to a baseball field in Hank Anderson III Community Park, waiting for the birds to take flight.
“We’ve only ever had this happen once but because we did have it happen once, I have to warn people every time we do a release: These birds are not human friendly,” Kindra Mammone, executive director of CLAWS Inc., said. “That means if they fly toward you, they don’t want a hug. So if one of these birds does fly at you, hit the ground.”
Immediately after, Mammone assured the crowd that they have never had anyone injured at an event before.
CLAWS is a nonprofit wildlife rescue and rehabilitation center in Chapel Hill. They take in hundreds of animals a year — at the moment they are nursing 42 squirrels back to health — some are there for rehabilitation, and some are rescues that will never be reintroduced to the wild.
CLAWS publicly released three red-shouldered hawks and one great horned owl Saturday. All four were brought to CLAWS as nestlings — baby birds unable to fly.
Mammone said normally upon finding a nestling, people are encouraged to place it back in its nest. She also said the popular notion that mothers will kill a baby if it has a human scent is not true.
Vinny Mammone, Kindra’s husband, gave the tossers their training one by one before releasing the birds.
“(Vinny) gives about 30 seconds of very in-depth training. Trust me, no one’s ever gotten hurt doing this,” Mammone told the four bird tossers doing the release.