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WITH HELP, VULTURE FLIES THE COOP
Lennon the vulture is caught, examined by a doctor and taken to a rehabber in the Northern Neck.

 A black vulture landed in the yard of helpful humans in Stafford.
PETER CIHELKA/THE FREE LANCE-STAR
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Date published: 2/5/2013

By CATHY DYSON

THE FREE LANCE-STAR

Rest easy, would-be bird wranglers.

The black vulture that had been hanging out in a North Stafford yard has been caught, examined by a veterinarian and sent to a Northern Neck refuge for rehabilitation.

"I'm very relieved," said Isabel Hodge, the Stafford County homeowner who'd watched the bird pace around her backyard for almost two weeks. "We just wanted to make sure he was healthy and taken care of."

The Hodge family spotted the vulture on Jan. 20, when 17-year-old Andrew went to the woodshed to get logs for the stove--and saw a large black bird drop from the rafters onto a nearby pile of wood.

The Hodges called various local agencies to get help for the vulture, which Isabel Hodge named Lennon after the Beatles singer. She worried that Lennon had lost the ability to fly and didn't want it to get so weak it couldn't eat.

She didn't find much help. Stafford Animal Control sent an officer to try to catch the bird--twice--but neither officer could track down the fast-moving vulture.

Others said carrion eaters weren't on their list of rescue animals. The one rehabilitator willing to help said the bird needed to be caught and transported to her.

In a Friday story in The Free Lance-Star, Isabel Hodge said she was nervous about the notion of being a "vulture wrestler."

As it turned out, she didn't have to throw a blanket over the bird's head and catch it. Capt. Mike Null, the commander of Stafford Animal Control, saw the story and wanted to take action.

"I just took it on my own to see what we could do for it," Null said.

He and Anthony McCall headed to the Hodge home.

After "about 40 minutes of nonstop running," they got their hands on the vulture, Null said. "It definitely was in better shape than it appeared to be," Null said. "It wasn't ready to be caught."

They took Lennon to Hartwood Animal Hospital, where workers regularly treat animals with an assortment of injuries.

"They've been a great resource for us," Null said.

X-rays showed Lennon had no broken bones. Workers tried to test the bird, to see if it could fly, but the vulture "couldn't get enough lift," said Robin Mattingly, a technician.

From there, the vulture was taken to a Stafford rehabilitator, then to Warsaw, to the Wild Bunch Wildlife Rehabilitation Refuge.

Licensed rehabber Diana O'Connor said the vulture is an adult. She said she has no clue what might have happened, but suspects the bird has a shoulder injury. She put it in a big flight cage with another vulture and will watch it carefully.

"We're just gonna do the best we can with it and give it some time," said O'Connor, who's worked with animals for 30 years and takes in about 900 creatures a year. "We'll see if we can pinpoint the problem."

Cathy Dyson: 540/374-5425
Email: cdyson@freelancestar.com