'Hawk' the Herald Angels Sing

A recently donated mounted Cooper's Hawk will help educate visitors of Belva Deer Park about migratory birds found in our area.  

When Frank and Fran Besser headed to church a few months back, they had no way of knowing they were about to stumble upon an education blessing for the residents of Keokuk County. Thanks to some quick thinking and some cooperation between local and state agencies, that’s exactly what happened. Last Wednesday, August 9, several months after an unlucky bird of prey was found dead near The Church of St. Mary’s, the mounted Cooper’s hawk ‘flew’ home to Keokuk County and was donated to Belva Deer Park for educational purposes for scout, school or tour groups.


That fateful morning months ago, the hawk had flown, fatally, into a church window just moments before the Besser’s arrival. When Frank saw it he recognized it right away as the rare species of hawk he had been noticing in Sigourney the past several years. Realizing it was too late to rescue the raptor, he had the idea that perhaps at least it could be preserved. Thankfully, he knew just the guy to call to inquire about the proper procedures for getting such a task accomplished. Besser immediately called his nephew, Jacob Embry, owner and artist of Black Squirrel Taxidermy in Ankeny. Embry directed him to State Conservation Officer, Wes Gould, who started the process for the special licensing such an undertaking would require. Meanwhile, the hawk hung-out in the Besser’s freezer until all the proper forms were completed and approved for it to be mounted and then donated back to Belva Deer Park.


Part of what makes this gift to the county so unique is the rareness of the foul discovered. The Cooper’s Hawk is different than the Red-tail Hawk we typically see in this area. Embry said there is a slight chance that this bird could be another type of hawk and the only way to really tell is through genetic testing. Due to the flatness of the head, the orange eyes, and the length and shape of the tail feathers, he is quite certain that this find is a Cooper’s Hawk.


To read more about this story, check out the August 14th issue of The Keota Eagle.