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Muskego - Everybody was having an unusual day.

A low-flying red-tailed hawk collided with a semi tractor trailer outside of West Bend and was given a about a 50-mile ride on the interstate to Muskego.

For Steven Pipia, it was his second day on the road as a new Muskego police officer when he and partner Officer Natalie Johnston were called to rescue the bird. The hawk was wedged between the truck's visor and the top of the cab. The journey last about an hour.

As the officers closed in, the raptor eyed them warily, stuck though it was. In the back of the officers' minds were the hawk's sharp beak and its flesh-ripping talons, the officers recalled.

Gingerly and gently, the rescuers poked the bird with the ends of sticks to free it. Pretty soon they were relieved to see the bird slide free and land in the engine compartment. There, it was easily scooped up by experts from the Humane Animal Welfare Society of Waukesha County and rushed to the Wildlife In Need Center in Oconomowoc.

The bird arrived bruised but with no broken bones on Oct. 5. It was treated and released it back into the world Oct. 11.

The driver told Muskego police that he knew he had hit the hawk, but didn't know it had gotten wedged behind the truck visor, said Captain David Constantineau. When the driver arrived at his destination off Saturn Drive in the Muskego industrial park, he saw the hawk and called police, Constantineau said.

"It was an interesting call for the second day on the road," he said of Pipia and his partner catching the rescue call.

When the hawk arrived at the Wildlife in Need Center, it was stunned but had no injuries, no pulled muscles no broken wings, said Jeff Phillips, director of development and marketing. It was a miracle, he said.

"It's rare that an animal survives being hit, unless the vehicle is going slowly, Phillips said. The theory the wildlife rescuers have is that the truck's aerodynamics may have worked in the hawk's favor by cushioning it somehow, he said.

The center gave the hawk the equivalent of pain killers and just let him rest, Phillips said. The first day, he couldn't stand up. The second day he could stand and was taking food out of caregivers' hands. After that, he just got stronger and stronger, Phillips said.

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