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November 15, 2017 / tgexp

Jerry Liguori Hawk Watch

Thanks to the funds donated to The Gleason Initiative Foundation, Team Gleason was able to assist Jerry Liguori, North America’s most well-known authority on raptors, get to the top of the Goshute Mountains for one last hawk watch. 

Jerry Liguori was diagnosed with ALS last year at the age of 50. Prior to diagnosis, Jerry worked as a educator for HawkWatch International, a research organization that studies raptors (hawks, eagles, falcons, and owls) and educates the public about issues related to these birds and how to conserve them. He contributed to the organization by leading field trips throughout Utah and other migration sites in the western USA where he educated others about raptors and shared his knowledge.

Jerry has published several of the seminal books and raptor guides in his field, along with numerous educational journal articles. Since the early 90’s he has spent thousands of hours in the field studying all aspects of raptors across all of North America. Each fall, thousands of raptors across the continent migrate south for winter. “Hawk watchers” are stationed at known locations across the country where large concentrations – sometimes more than 1,000 raptors per day – are known to migrate. At these sites, hawk watchers scan the skies with binoculars and tally the species, age, and sex of all the raptors that pass by. Before his time as an educator, Jerry worked at various North American Hawk Watches, establishing himself over 30 years as North America’s most well-known hawk counter.

The Goshute Mountains in Nevada is Jerry’s favorite raptor migration site. Unfortunately, since his diagnosis, Jerry has not been able to return to the Goshutes. To get to the site, a strenuous 2.5 mile hike up 1,800 vertical feet to the top of a 9,000 foot ridge is required. Although typically afraid of flying, Jerry made it known to coworkers and friends that he would be willing to take a helicopter flight to the top of the Goshutes if it meant one last visit to his favorite migration site. Jesse, who reached out to Team Gleason on Jerry’s behalf showed Team Gleason just how important it was for Jerry to experience this one last time – “I believe providing him with this opportunity would be a small repayment to a man who has dedicated his life to studying raptors and sharing his passion… we (myself and the many others Jerry has touched throughout his career) would be forever grateful to you”.

Jerry had to receive special approval from the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) because the site is located within a designated Wilderness Area on BLM land which means no motorized vehicles are technically allowed. Once approval was granted, Team Gleason was able to assist in covering the costs of the helicopter ride to the top of the Goshutes. 

“My wife Sherry and I drove out to the trail head of the Goshute Raptor Migration site to meet with our friend Jesse Watson and the helicopter pilot, Donovan Owens. The pilot gave us brief instructions before lifting off and taking us up 2,000 vertical feet to the top of the ridge. The view from above was breath taking and inspiring! The Goshute range is known as the most spectacular hawk migration site in the western US. I watched as hundreds of hawks flew by on their journey south. Several came close enough to photograph and allow great views. The biologists trap hawks as well to monitor and tag them, allowing us the opportunity to see these magnificent creatures up close! The most memorable part of the trip was holding a Red-tailed Hawk and releasing it back to the wild (photo above). It left me speechless”.

Jerry’s wife Sherry also reached out to Team Gleason upon their return; here’s what she had to say – “I just want to send you a thank you for your sponsorship of my husband, Jerry’s, helicopter trip to the Goshute Mountains in NV. It was a wonderful day and very generous of your foundation to enable him to do this. Jerry spent many years working atop this mountain counting hawks…he and I both have many special memories of this place…we were even engaged atop this mountain 18 years ago! While Jerry used to be able to hike up that mountain like a mountain goat, unfortunately he could not longer make the hike, and even had difficulty walking on the rocky terrain at the top. ALS is a terrible disease, and robs people of their ability to participate in many of activities for which they are passionate. I am grateful that Team Gleason was able to allow him to follow his passion to the top of this mountain. Thank you so much for all you do. It is a difficult disease for patients and families, but organizations such as yours help us see the positive side and compassion in others”.

Jerry let Team Gleason know “…the adventure changed my outlook. It let me know that Team Gleason and friends and family care about me enough to let me know that no matter how bad I feel, there is always a reason to stay positive and appreciate life!! Thank you so much to the entire team for this amazing day!!”



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