Toddler mauled by pet hawk

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iol wld nov 10 Harris hawk

REUTERS

Picture for illustration purposes: Bonnie, who has a wingspan of 3.5ft and can fly at 45mph, has been raised from 16 weeks old by Mr Brewer.

London -A toddler was nearly blinded after a pet hawk ripped his face with its talons as he played in a park.

Two-year-old Alfie Hall was in a playground with relatives when a Harris hawk named Bonnie swooped on to his head.

Her razor-sharp talons cut his cheek, narrowly missing his eye, and severed part of his left ear. Alfie’s mother Elysia, 23, said doctors had to glue the ear back together.

She said: “There was blood everywhere. The bird ripped several chunks out of his head, including a big gash right next to his eye which needed stitches. The doctors told us he was lucky not to lose his sight.

“Alfie was totally shocked, his eye was swollen and I could see his ear was badly injured too.

“We called an ambulance and they whisked Alfie off to the hospital, where he was given anaesthetic and kept in overnight.”

Miss Hall, from Church Crookham, Hampshire, said Bonnie ignored the calls of her teenage owner and “dive-bombed” Alfie as he stood in the park in a council estate in Farnborough.

But the hawk’s owner, Scott Brewer, 18, on Friday denied the bird had deliberately attacked Alfie and insisted she was safe around children.

He said: “If she had meant to attack him, the extent of his injuries would have been a lot worse. Their talons lock into place, so she could have ripped his face off if she meant to.”

Mr Brewer said he had twice warned a group of children, including Alfie, not to bother Bonnie while she was feeding minutes before the incident.

“She can get a bit grumpy and try and nip you, but she would never draw blood,” he said.

He believes the two-year-old hawk caught the toddler with her talons accidentally after mistaking his head for a landing post. He said: “He was the same height as the railings where she normally sits. She does land on people’s heads sometimes. It’s something birds do because it’s the highest point.”

Bonnie, who has a wingspan of 3.5ft and can fly at 45mph, has been raised from 16 weeks old by Mr Brewer.

Until the incident in September, he exercised her for an hour every day at the park. He added: “Kids would come out every day when I was in the park with her and I’d have 30 children around me. I’ve had really young children, even babies, stroke her. She’s never attacked anyone before.”

Mr Brewer, who is unemployed but dreams of opening a sanctuary for birds of prey, has had an obsession with birds all his life. His family have three European eagle owls, a barn owl and another Harris hawk, which they keep in aviaries in their large garden.

Mr Brewer was arrested for assault two days after the incident but released without charge.

He has been banned from flying Bonnie on council land, so now takes her to private woodland where she is free to hunt for rabbits and pheasants.

An RSPCA spokesman said there was no law governing where pet birds of prey can be flown.

He added: “Any wild animal kept as a pet is a challenge and owners have a responsibility to ensure they can provide for their needs. Hawks are wild animals and not domesticated. They have a very specific diet of raw meat and need to be given lots of space.” - Daily Mail


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