- Associated Press - Saturday, April 16, 2016

LAS CRUCES, N.M. (AP) - A hawk species that is under federal protection is creating a burden for New Mexico State University.

For a third consecutive year Swainson’s hawks are trying to nest in a tree on campus, The Las Cruces Sun-News reported (http://bit.ly/1MzVEeK). If the hawks are able to form an active nest with at least one egg or if there are nestlings, federal law prevents university officials from removing the birds.

Glen Haubold, the university’s associate vice president for facilities, said the hawks have begun to attack people who come too close, as they have done in previous years. In the past two years, at least 18 people have been injured by swooping hawks trying to protect their nests.

“We’ve been speaking and working with a lot of experts to try to resolve this, and we’ve done what has been recommended,” Haubold said. “This hawk has been hurting people, and we need to do something about it.”

Haubold said crews have cut down tree branches where the hawks have begun building nests in hopes of discouraging the birds. He said he contacted the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service before doing so.

Delivan J. Roper, a special agent with the Fish and Wildlife Service, said Tuesday in an email to Haubold that biologists have recommended the university remove nests that are being constructed before eggs are laid in order to deter the hawks from using the populated location. He said the university also could apply for a permit to have the hawks captured and removed.

“The USFWS, myself included, are concerned for the safety of all personnel on campus,” he said in the email. “This was the reason I suggested this permit. Once the nest is established, it may be more difficult to move the raptors based on their aggressiveness.”

Kevin Bixby, executive director of the Southwest Environmental Center, said he is concerned for the raptors’ safety. He said the university is missing a teaching opportunity by trying to drive the birds away.

“They could have put up a nest cam, which has been done in other parts of the country, or they could have blocked off the area and put up a sign warning of the nesting habits,” he said. “It could have been an opportunity for NMSU to make national news.”

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Information from: Las Cruces Sun-News, http://www.lcsun-news.com

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