A fine paid by CN Rail after the 2005 Lake Wabumun train derailment has played a role in the recovery of a red-tailed hawk that had its feathers burned by a methane flare last year.

The hawk, which was found barely alive at an Edmonton landfill, was treated at the Wildlife Rehabilitation Society of Edmonton and released back into the wild Wednesday. 

"He didn't look too well when I got up closer to him," said Cody Brown, the worker who rescued the bird in December.


The hawk spent 8 months recovering at the Wildlife Rehabilitation Society of Edmonton. (CBC)

"I had my big leather gloves on and when I bent down to help pick him up, he grabbed on to my hand. I held him until we got him to the rescue."

The hawk is among more than 1,000 animals treated at the Wildlife Rehabilitation Society each year. Two years ago, the society was the beneficiary of a fine levied by the courts in the Lake Wabumun oil spill.

CN Rail was fined $1.4 million after pleading guilty to three charges in the August 2005 train derailment which resulted in just over 196,000 litres of heavy oil and pole-treating oil spilling into the lake, about 50 kilometres west of Edmonton.


This photo shows the extent of the injury to the hawk's feathers.

The Wildlife Rehabilitation Society received $600,000 of that fine.

The society moved to a rural location near Spruce Grove last year. The money paid for the conversion of donated trailers into a 370-square-metre, state-of-the-art animal healthcare facility. 

"It's had a huge impact," said Holly Duvall, the society's animal care and project manager. "Without that money, we would definitely not have the facility that we have today."

The improved centre means the number of animals treated by the society is increasing each year, Duvall said.