By Cleve Bryan

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MEDFORD, N.J. (CBS) – The sky is the limit for this red-tailed hawk in Burlington County.

For the first time since November, the bird got to spread its wings Tuesday and soar above the open fields. This is truly a story of survival and strong will.

The hawk was determined to make a powerful come back after being severely injured.

The expression “free as a bird” takes on new meaning when you learn what this red-tailed hawk has been through.

In November, last year the hawk came in burnt and battered to Jeanne Gural’s team at the Woodford Cedar Run Wildlife Refuge in Medford.

“What we believe happened was she flew through the invisible methane flame at a landfill and then she fell from the sky and then she was hit by a car,” said Jeanne Gural.

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After all that trauma, she laid on the ground helpless for days until someone found her along Route 38 in Mount Holly.

“She was emaciated, she was severely dehydrated, she had soft tissue damage from what we surmise to be a car strike and her feathers were singed,” said Gural.

Gural says this hawk is a warrior. Not only did she molt and regrow all her feathers, as a full grown female hawk, she served as a surrogate mother to a group of abandoned baby hawks.

Once the hawk had full flying and hunting abilities, the final test was returning with confidence to the wild, which she passed with flying colors.

Releasing birds to the wild is an exciting thing but just a small part of what they do at Cedar Run, in fact, they help thousands of animals a year.

“We have taken in over 3,000 animals so far this year which is about 600 more than we did last year,” said Shannon Kilpatrick of Woodford Cedar Run Wildlife Refuge.

Cedar Run is always looking for volunteers and donors to help injured animals crawl, run or soar free.