In October, wildlife rehabilitators at the New Mexico Wildlife Center took in a red-tailed hawk with puzzling injuries. The raptor’s wings, normally padded with thick, dark-brown feathers, were so badly burned that they looked skeletal. Its chest and head were also scorched.
“It kind of looked like it ran through fire,” says Hilary DeVries, a wildlife rehabilitator at the center, located in Española. Staff thought the male bird had been electrocuted, perhaps by a power line. But he lacked entry or exit wounds, lesions, or sores—all signs of such an encounter.
What burned the bird, as the New Mexico rescuers soon found out, was methane flaring, a federally mandated practice for disposing of methane, a potent greenhouse